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2011 June 28

Assistant Files, Vol. 17: Stephanie Wagenman, Betsey Johnson

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Stephanie Wagenman Stephanie Wagenman
Giorgio Niro
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What was it like when you attempted to implement a schedule? What was her reaction?
She needs to be doing certain things during the day but you also never know with Betsey. If there’s a task that I think would take Betsey an hour, it only takes her five minutes. And then something you allot to take five minutes will take an hour. Now, I just make a list of what absolutely has to get done on a particular day, and I’ll set each task in front of her so she’ll do it. That’s my method now instead of having a schedule hour by hour; she just wouldn’t follow it or listen to me.

What would you be shocked to see on Betsey’s to-do list?

I would be shocked to hear her say the words “to-do list”! No, she does keep a to-do list, but it’s in her head. She says and does so many crazy things, I don’t think I’d be shocked by anything, really. I guess the most shocking thing would be if Betsey didn’t come in to the office at all.

How tech savvy is Betsey?
She has no idea how to use a computer; she'll say so herself. She says she doesn’t like to touch computers because they break when she gets near them. I send emails for her. I recently tried explaining Facebook and Twitter to her…forget about it. Her phone is one of those flip phone things. She doesn’t know how to use the address book on her phone to dial people's numbers—I tried to show her once, and it was hilarious. She loses her phone all the time, so I have two or three backup phones for her. She’s been pretty good about keeping track of her phone lately, but she does have this one credit card that she lost a total of 56 times. But even though she loses or forgets all this stuff, in general I believe that 99.9 percent of the time, Betsey Johnson is right. She knows every single piece of vintage she owns; it’s insane.

What was your first impression of Betsey?
I thought that this lady was completely crazy. She was flying around everywhere. She is a total whirlwind, but I understood it, even the first time we met. She’s a true teacher—she’s always explaining things, and she’ll take the time to sit down and walk through something. When I came in for my internship interview, she was covered in all these scarves and looked kind of nuts. But I got it.

After over two years in Betseyland, how have your impressions been proven or defied?
She’s truly the nicest person; even if I fuck up, she’s like, “oh, it’s okay," but I’m really disappointed. Betsey is completely genuine; she never pretends to be anyone she’s not. She’s turning 69, but she has the energy of a two-year-old! Sometimes I feel like I’m mothering her, and other times she’s like the ultimate mentor.

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