I've always had sweet spot for Betsey, and I've amassed a tiny army of her fabulous dresses over the years, but always at a sacrifice. Mac and Cheese dinners accounted for the budgetary free-wheeling, but they were, and still are, some of my favorites.
So my heart broke a little when it was announced that Betsey Johnson LLC filed for bankruptcy protection last night, which will result in the majority of her self-named shops closing their doors in the coming weeks as well as the dismissal of their 300-plus employees. (Don't worry, those shop girls are all 22 and adorable; they'll bounce back.) A handful of flagship locations will remain open and the line will continue to be carried by Saks, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom, but the brand itself will diminish considerably simply through the loss of a boutique presence.
Steve Madden bought the company in 2010, forgiving a $48 million dollar loan in the process. According to Forbes the company sunk deeper in the financial fashion hamper last year, listing: ""severe liquidity problems" and $4.1 million in outstanding unsecured obligations owed to vendors, manufacturers, service providers and other creditors including jewelers, watchmakers, banks and accountants."
Okay, so Betsey isn't a finance wizard, but let's not forget that she was -- and is -- instrumental in the evolution of great clothing for alternative women. Johnson helped launch Edie Sedgwick's career by hiring her as in-house model for her 1960s Upper East Side boutique, Betsey Bunky Nini (their connection was made through her and Warhol's mutual fondness of one another as well as Johnson's ties to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.). And now, we still need her to keep fashion's balance between the overly prim and the under-constructed. She'll remain the line's creative director, with a new focus on lower price point clothing. So maybe it isn't all bad? Perhaps you'll be soon be able to snag a party dress without having to eat Ramen for a week in budgetary penance.
We'll know more soon enough; Betsey just signed on to a new Style Network reality television show. It's called "Betsey and Lulu" and stars both the icon and her daughter as they deal with the fashion industry's many obstacles.
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