Betsey Johnson has always designed for girls who just want to have fun, so who else but Cyndi Lauper would she choose to light up her 70th birthday bash? The three-hour romp at Midtown’s Espace was half runway show, half confetti-filled pop blitz, making it one of the most memorable events yet of the Spring 2013 season. As the grandmother of eccentric prom fashion cartwheeled down the runway, her daughter burst out of a cake while her grandchildren looked on in fascination – all while Lauper warbled her classic hedonistic anthem to the way-over-capacity but jubilant crowd. More than ever, Johnson’s show was like a trip to a cupcake shop and a circus in one, though this season’s display really took the cake (pun necessary).
“I’ve been a Betsey fan since 1980,” Lauper informed the crowd while dressed in a wild Johnson frock. While there’s certainly a irreducible Eighties varnish to all that the designer creates, she’s maintained a hold over young women’s wardrobe imaginations since then. Britney Spears is a fan; Katy Perry, the teenage dream herself, was practically invented to wear Johnson’s creations (and has, often). Last night, even Lil’ Kim – making the rounds this Fashion Week – stopped by to celebrate New York’s kooky fashion queen.
The new collection on the runway explained their fascination with Johnson’s legacy, from her Sixties pop-art roots to present. She continues to design defiantly youthful clothes that echo her own rainbow-brite tastes. Crimped hair, metallic saddle shoes and the too-short, too-vibrant uniforms of schoolgirls-gone-bad dominated the first few looks of Spring 2013’s lengthy collection, but it soon became clear that this season is one of ceremonious pastiche over cohesion. What followed suit was a montage of all the wardrobe risks that have made Johnson famous: wild punk-ballerina looks, Minnie Mouse tributes, electrified bohemian dresses, bits of Western camp, teapot and gun prints. None of it was in good taste, but all of it was fun and everyone witnessing it was having the time of their lives. And in Johnson’s corner of the fashion world, having a good time will always come first.