News & Scoops

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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 Have you had any interesting field trips together beyond the hot pink and animal print-bedecked Betsey confines?
I went to the New York City Ballet with Betsey recently, and she decided to dress me up like one of the seven deadly sins. We picked wrath. Betsey drew all over me with a Sharpie, made my hair really crazy, dressed me in a giant hoop skirt with red bloomers and my butt showing—and she put me on a chain. She was dressed as anger management, and I was anger. I don’t know what crazy drugs you had to be on to think of this, but that’s just sane, normal life around here. The Post ran an item about how we almost knocked Sarah Jessica Parker off her heels.

What about Betsey’s appearances, when there (hopefully!) isn’t a chain and hoop skirt involved?
Betsey loves going to appearances in her stores—they’re always planned ahead of time, since it’s mayhem if we just show up. I’m not a bodyguard, I can’t keep up! I can’t beat off people! One person will recognize Betsey and that’s all it takes—everyone else realizes who she is and starts following her around to take a picture and talk with her. The other day, we were in Macy's for an appearance, and it was going calmly until Betsey wanted to stop and check out the flower show. Then, one girl recognized her. That was all it took; it became madness. She gets spotted on the street, too. Especially here in the garment district.

Do you have any side projects on the job?
I started a blog about all the crazy things Betsey and I do together, which has been really fun. I’ll be sitting around and Betsey will ask me to paint the nails on her left hand or something random like that. Betsey and I both have issues with right and left – I get it from dancing, and Betsey gets it from just being born like that. Clock directions are also an issue for both of us. She’ll tell me to turn clockwise while I’m trying something on, and I’ll spin around in the opposite direction. It’s just silliness around here that somehow works, and it’s somehow a company. Everyone works hard, but it’s just fun.

What’s it like when you’re prepping for a show?
When it’s time for a show, I’m basically sleeping here. We might as well just pitch tents. We go home at three or four in the morning—it’s just easy to work that hard and not really think about it, because you really, really care about making the show the best it can be. And you care about Betsey.  I try to make Betsey leave earlier, around 8 p.m. 
Does Betsey have any show superstitions or quirks?
She likes to do odd-numbered looks—she counts herself in the number of looks; she’s the last one.

What are Betsey's qualms about even numbers?
She doesn’t like things that are asymmetrical. For example, the number five has two numbers on each side. I think the same way. We’re weirdly similar like that.

How about her pet peeves?

Betsey gets annoyed when people chew with their mouths open. She also doesn’t like it when other people’s drawings end up on our design boards; it’s more of a preference than a pet peeve. She understands what’s going on with a collection when she can see her own work.

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