Melissa Shea at New York Fashion Week

NYFW: My Last View of Betsey Johnson From the Pit

In Behind-the-Scenesby Melissa Shea

Each time I come to New York Fashion Week I have a list in my head of all the shows I want to see that make my heart go pitter-pat, and none get it racing more than Betsey Johnson. But this coming season, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week will be missing one of it’s most iconic designers. The Betsey Johnson brand filed for bankruptcy in April and their liquidations sales have been the hottest ticket in town, but my heart was never tied to Betsey’s dresses, it’s always been the show.

My favorite show at MBFW has always been Betsey Johnson, but then isn’t it everyone’s? The press pit at a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is always a stressful and cramped place, but it seems like the Betsey Johnson show takes stress and cramping to a whole new level. All the photographers and videographers want to be there and every member of your team is there taking up precious space. Including ours. At a recent show we were contracted to provide one video tape of the Betsey Johnson show to our client, somehow that took four of us to pull off… and three of us were photographers…

Melissa Shea at New York Fashion Week

Melissa Shea and Sandra DahDah in the press pit at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

When the bewitching hour comes, all the press who are lined up get poised to pounce the moment security gives us the sign. We all rush through the door of the venue like someone is about to steal our last dollar, trying hard not to trample the persons to our left and right – OK, maybe not trying “hard” but trying to behave well enough that security doesn’t kick us out, while racing to get the 12 inches of space we need to place our body for the next hour until the guests are seated and the show begins. Which by the way lasts less than 10 minutes, then we race out to do it all over again for the next show.

I was thrilled with the position I got for the  Spring / Summer 2012 Betsey Johnson collection – a perfect shot from the beginning of the runway all the way to the end. All I had to do was indure about 45 minutes of intense pain while kneeling on my knees with arms wrapped through the tripods on either side of me so I could hold my camera with a 300mm lens steady.

Betsey Johnson just seems to bring out the most enthusiasm from the press and the crowd because the lady puts on a good show. There are always the hippest celebs in attendance, this season’s show had Kelly Osbourne, a regular attendee, singer Nicki Minaj, and after the show we got interviews with the kind of celebs that get our heart-racing, stylist for “Carrie Bradshaw” Patricia Fields, and former IMG VP and the person who started NY Fashion Week, Fern Mallis.

Maybe it’s my red hair, or my inner rebel that likes to rear it’s head from time to time, but I just love the crazy outfits, the obnoxious colors, and the models who actually “strut” the runway and then give all of us in the press pit their sauciest smile, and juiciest pose. Yes, I’m too old to wear Johnson, and no, I’ve never owned one of her designs, but I am a closet website surfer that likes to take a peek now and again at what I “might” be wearing if I were a little younger and a lot braver. Yes, I know, Betsey Johnson has clothes for the “mature” woman, but those really aren’t the ones I’m interested in.

Highlights from the Spring / Summer 2013 runway show included her daughter LuLu who was the first model to walk the runway. Betsey said that she wanted to prove that women should be proud of their voluptuous body, a theme carried over from her show a year ago when she featured several young plus-size models. I also think she gave a nod to older women who would like to wear the fun, vivacious designs, as she had another model on the catwalk that was clearly closer to LuLu’s age than the other models.

Betsey also included an homage to her younger self. The 68 year-old designer does cartwheels at the end of every show, but apparently still felt the need to remind us that she was once a hip, downtown girl by emblazoning several tunics with screen prints of her in her younger, stranger days.

Here’s a preview of her Fall 2013 Collection, but since her stores are now closed… I have no idea where you can buy it! The word on the street is that Betsey and daughter Lulu will be launching a reality TV show this fall on the Style Network based on Lulu’s efforts to start her own fashion dynasty. With the bankruptcy in the rear view window, I’m wondering if that’s a good idea?

About Melissa Shea

Melissa Shea is the co-founder of Fashion Mingle and has spent over 20 years in the creative industry fueled by a love of learning about the “next new thing”. Melissa has used her entrepreneurial passion and technology skills to develop an online platform for fashion professionals that will transform the future for local fashion communities.

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