In the fashion industry, which is filled with colorful and eccentric personalities, fashion designer Betsey Johnson still stands out for her unique style and exuberant persona. She has perfected the playful bohemian look and turned it into multimillion-dollar business. Johnson is also an inspirational survivor of breast cancer. Instead of wallowing in self-pity when she got the diagnosis, Johnson quietly sought treatment, and she went public about it after she beat the disease.
On October 1, 2011, Johnson hosted a party at her boutique in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood to kick off National Breast-Cancer Awareness Month. She made her grand entrance at the event in a pink Yoplait truck, since she is partnered with the company’s “Yoplait Loves New York Women” campaign. (Yoplait has donated more than $30 million to the breast-cancer cause through Yoplait’s “Save Lids to Save Lives” promotion and related donation initiatives.) After arriving at the event, Johnson gave a heartfelt speech about her experience as a cancer survivor and how it’s given her a new perspective on life. Sometime during the party, I had a chance to briefly sit down with Johnson for this exclusive interview.
The campaign is called “Yoplait Loves New York Women.” What do you love most about New York women?
They’re survivors. They’re great women. No matter what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, New York is the best place in the world to me.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a fashion designer?
That you have to be good with people and recognize that you never do anything alone.
Are there any people or experiences that inspired you the most as a survivor of breast cancer?
My daughter was the only one I told at first [that I had breast cancer]. After you get over it, you get over it. You don’t think about it. From the day you’re diagnosed, you have to be over it. That’s why I didn’t tell everyone [at first]. I didn’t want people coming up to me saying, “How are you doing?”
Since you’re partnered with Yoplait on this campaign, what’s your favorite flavor of Yoplait yogurt?
Strawberry and blueberry.
What can people expect from your next fashion collection?
I’m going back to my roots — like the ‘60s. I’m just making clothes that I want to wear and that I will wear. I’m more rock’n’roll than ruffles. I’m working on a more “lean and mean,” strong collection.
For more info: Betsey Johnson website