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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 does Betsey usually eat for lunch?
I have to make sure she gets fed and eats her lunch at 12 p.m., and she can’t eat too much shrimp so she won’t get mercury poisoning again. She eats shrimp cocktail every single day! I try to make her eat chicken soup at least once a month. She used to eat blueberries and yogurt every day, with about 10 packs of Equal in it. It’s gross. Betsey likes to eat out, and she never cooks—but she used to like to decorate cakes. It was actually a job she had when she was younger. And then she has “traveling music.”

Traveling music? Is that an iPod playlist or something?

It’s champagne. She takes it home with her—she travels with it in a mug. There’s also “funny coffee” which is when we put champagne in coffee mugs and sit at the table in the showroom, instead of drinking out of champagne flutes.

What is Betsey’s guilty pleasure?
Traveling music.

How much Betsey was in your closet before you started?

I was the total un-Betsey girl. I didn’t own any of it. I think Betsey likes the way I look because it’s different from what she’s been doing for years. I was always wearing leotards to dance in, so when I wasn’t dancing, I just wanted to wear sack-like dresses. The way my body is shaped from dancing definitely fits her aesthetic. She’s the designer I love the most now, based on her vintage. She did crazy Dolman sleeves, jumpsuits, and all sorts of comfy clothes in the ‘80s. All the ballet costumes and prom dresses, which can be a bit like fluff at times. That’s not entirely who Betsey is, though she definitely likes that niche and that type of customer. Her aesthetic throughout her history has changed so much. That’s one of the coolest things I’ve learned from being here. She’s been around for 40 years – every decade, she’s done everything. Betsey’s sketches are always inspired by her own archives. She’s always evolving.

How exactly is Betsey evolving?
Betsey is very impacted by her surroundings, and I think her style has changed since she moved to the Upper East Side four or five years ago from downtown.

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