Betsey Johnson (born August 10th, 1942, Wethersfield, Connecticut) is a fashion designer best known for her feminine and whimsical designs. Many of her designs are considered "over the top" and embellished. She also is known for doing a splitwheel at the end of her fashion shows. She took many dance classes as a child and adolescent which inspired her love of costumes. After high school, Johnson studied at the Pratt Institute and then later graduated from Syracuse University where she was a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
In 1968, she married Velvet Underground's John Cale. They divorced in 1989. She had a daughter, Samantha, in 1975 who now works with her and a granddaughter Layla.
Johnson's fashion career started when she entered and won the Mademoiselle Guest Editor Contest. Within a year she was the in-house designer for the Manhattan boutique Paraphernalia. Johnson became part of both the youthquake fashion movement and Andy Warhol's underground scene, along with The Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick and Lou Reed. In 1969, she opened a boutique called Betsey Bunki Nini on New York's Upper East Side. Edie Sedgwick was her house model and Johnson designed the clothing Sedgwick wore on her last film, Ciao! Manhattan. In the 1970s, Johnson took control of the fashion label "Alley Cat" which was popular with the rock 'n roll musicians of the day. In 1972 she won the Coty Award. In 1978, Johnson started her own fashion line and then opened up her first retail store in Soho. Today, there are over forty-five of her stores worldwide.
In 2002, Johnson was inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame. Her bronze plaque held one of her original sketches. Then, in 2003, she expanded her line for 2004 to include handbags, accessories, hats, and scarves.
In 2008, Johnson was one of the contributors to Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna's book Cherry Bomb.
The National Arts Club awarded John the 2009 Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Fashion