Meeting Betsey Johnson

Over the course of the last 31 years of my life, I have had the privilege of meeting many people with high-profile jobs: from actors and musicians, to political figures and local DC personalities, many people have impressed me but none as much as Betsey Johnson.

Betsey’s team let Tysons Galleria know last week that there was a possibility she would make a quick public appearance today, March 10th.  Of course, from the minute we all found out, we were excited.  Very rarely do you get a designer of her calibre to make a very public appearance at one of their stores.

When the day came, I went down to our Betsey Johnson store and found that not just the staff but the store and CUSTOMERS were decked out in this month’s B.J. theme – Alice in Wonderland.  It’s very fitting for Betsey’s style – fantasy, funky and daring.  (Even though I didn’t participate in that particular theme, I must say, thank GOODNESS I bought that skirt from Betsey Johnson for the Fashion for Paws kickoff – it made me feel a lot better greeting her in one of her own designs.) Also on-hand, a very fabulous makeup artist, some treats and many curious shoppers!

At noon sharp, Betsey entered the mall and a small group of people flocked towards her.  Surprisingly, the crowd (of all ages) was quite subdued and more in-awe than anything.  Here is this incredibly accomplished, yet very tiny designer, welcoming her fans as though all of them were her friends.  Upon first greet, she is magnetic and energetic – you want to hang onto every word she says because of her larger-than-life personality.

As she entered the store, she introduced every last part of her staff that was on-hand and as a wonderful (additional) surprise, the family that tagged along as well (which coincidentally lives in Arlington).  In fact, she stood directly in front of me during this and made sure to make eye contact with as many people as possible.

When she moved to the back of the store, she got up on a bench, to be able to see each and every person in the store (about 50 in total) and talked for the next 30 minutes, taking as many questions as possible.  People were so captivated by her magnetism that many a time, it was completely silent while she spoke.  Here were some of the highlights:

– She came to Washington, D.C. to support the American Association of People with Disabilities and their annual Gala by providing artistic direction to their logo and overall design, as well as provide outfits for disabled women to model.  Per her CBS interview, and her impromptu speech at the Galleria, she is quoted as saying,  “It’s just been so heartwarming to see my clothes on people in wheelchairs and people needing physical support.”  She added, “Just to see what a pink dress can mean to a woman, any woman, but a disabled woman, that’s extra special and thrilling because they shouldn’t be separated and their disabilities don’t have to separate them in anyway.”

– She loves her family – her daughter and husband and their two children live five floors below Betsey.  She loves seeing her grandkids as much as possible.

– She opened her first SoHo store in 1978, due to 3000 pieces having been created but not enough money to have a fashion show – her career launched from there

– She has had the same business partner for 31 years

– She is inspired by her own clothing – she can watch hours of old fashion show footage

– She rarely shops – she claims she has nothing in her closet

– She says that no matter how much schooling you have, nothing compares to real world experience

– She’d love to have a lower line, designed for H&M or Target, as she realizes how many girls would love to wear her styles but can’t necessarily afford them

– She loves to support charities near and dear to her heart.  Her list of local D.C. charities are nothing to shake a stick at.  She has supported/continues to support Fashion for Paws, Pink Fashion Rocks (even sent a homemade video to the show), All Access Fashion and many more.

As expected, the one hour Betsey was to be there, turned into two, as she wanted to ensure that each fan got a picture with her before she left.  I am sure that we all hope she comes back to visit again!

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