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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Betsey Johnson

Fashion force Fern Mallis was back on stage at New York’s 92nd Street Y last night for a chat with the irrepressible Betsey Johnson. The designer, clad in a black tee that proclaimed her a “rocker,” shredded leggings, wedge sneakers, and a hot pink tutu that she would later shimmy out of to get comfortable, bounded on stage with a signature cartwheel and concluded the evening by showering Mallis, her old friend, in rose petals. “That was good I think,” she said of their fizzy dialogue before skipping off to greet fans. Here’s ten fun facts that emerged from the conversation:

10. She spends $20,000 a year on hair extensions. “It costs 5,000 a pop to look this cheap and trashy,” she said.

9. She made her first garment at age four. “I still have that apron. The print is so great. It has little Scottie dogs on it.”

8. She dropped out of Pratt Institute after one year to pursue…cheerleading. “Pratt was a bitch. It was a killer year. I didn’t have time to do anything…well, I had time to eat. I think I gained 100 pounds. But we didn’t have time to sleep. I had to leave and cheerlead [at Syracuse University].”

7. As a guest editor at Mademoiselle, she traveled to London (and met Margaret Thatcher). “I came back [from London] and wanted to be an American Mary Quant. I connected with that fashion–primitive, basic, almost flat-patterned, primal, kindergarten kind of clothing.”

6. At least one First Lady has worn her clothes.Jackie Kennedy came in [to mod NYC boutique Paraphernalia] and bought 12 or 13 of these satin-backed crepe bush shirts. [She was pictured wearing one on the] cover of Life, tromping around in Cambodia.”

5. Andy Warhol was an early fan. “I met Andy and Edie [Sedgwick] because they wanted silver clothes, and I was doing stretch silver bell-bottom jeans and t-shirt tops.”

4. She designed clothes for the Velvet Underground (and was briefly married to John Cale, who she is going to see perform at BAM on Saturday).Lou Reed, to this day, says I cut a really good crotch.”

3. Her reality show, co-starring daughter Lulu, debuts in April on the Style network. “I think it’s a comedy. It’s pretty real. It’s got a yin yang. As I laugh, Lulu will cry.”

2. She hates to shop. “Unless I go to Lanvin and I can buy another ceramic figurine of a crazy fashion lady or another pair of twelve-hundred-dollar Giuseppe Zanotti shoes that I need but that I’ll never wear.”

1. Her advice to aspiring designers is simple. “Kick ass. Just keep on kickin’. You need to have luck and you kind of have to be talented.”

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