Heralding herself an “angry anarchist” inside, fashion designer and all round legend Betsy Johnson is exactly what the world needs right now. She’s provocative, she’s a rebel, and she won’t stop until she’s built her empire. If like us you want to know more about the brains behind it all, keep on reading.
Can you briefly introduce yourself to anyone who isn’t familiar with you? Who is Betsy Johnson, and what does she do?
I’m a multi-disciplined artist from Grimsby, out here trying to build my empire basically.
What’s your orientation in life, who and what do you identify with most?
I’d say I’m non gender conforming but I’m not into aligning myself in any profession, orientation, etc; I don’t like boxes.
How is your approach to fashion and photography different to others in the industry at the moment? What do you bring that others don’t?
I approach all of my work on a very multi-platform level, I never just sit and design something, or write something… all my practices co-exist and complement one another. I see a world before I see the actual outcome; then it will eventually manifest into whichever medium feels most natural and fitting. I can pull a concept together very quickly once I have a stimuli; this also means that I’m super impatient though.
Who/what inspires your clothing line, ‘Freckled Ace’ and what reaction do you want to create with each drop?
Freckled Ace is just one of the mediums I work under; I want to create slow fashion made in the UK ethically. I’m entirely inspired by my own personal experiences and the people around me. Right now I’m hugely influenced by the underground scene in New York and Berlin; that alongside my own battle with conceptualising what it means to exist in 2018 as a digital native being totally shit on by world politics; it’s a mixture of rebellion, escapism and survival.
Would you call yourself a feminist, and if so, can you explain how your choice of clothing reflects this?
My mum is a hardcore feminist and very left wing politically so I have her to thank for the angry anarchist inside me. I like to challenge social norms with how I present myself. If someone isn’t staring, I’m not going loud enough. I think because where I grew up I wasn’t exposed to anyone who really challenged heteronormative behaviour or dress codes, I want to provoke and be that person as an adult, I think it’s important to be a role model to people, especially young girls who maybe aren’t aware that you can be anyone you want to be. There’s no limits or boundaries, especially when it comes to personal style.
What is your most prized possession and why?
Haha, can I say my friends? For real though, I couldn’t live without my laptop; I’d be totally fucked without it.
Who would be your dream collab?
I’d really love to work with Nadia Lee Cohen on something, but I love working collaboratively with all my friends and can’t wait to see what projects we create in the future as we all grow together as artists.
Can you give us the inside scoop on what you’ve been working on recently?
I like to keep my cards up my sleeve; but I’ve been working on a collection as acting creative director for The Ragged Priest titled “My Illusion, Your Delusion” which comes out on October 18th, and another collection for Freckled Ace coming out in November!
Tell us something exclusive that we don’t know about you already?
My Grandad was a traveller so I’ve got that blood. That’s why I can’t be in the same place for very long, it’s in my DNA.
What are you most excited about right now? Can we expect anything big or surprising from you in the next year?
You’ll have to wait and see xoxoxox!
You’ve modelled for Vivienne Westwood’s campaign ‘Don’t Get Killed’ and walked at LFW/NYFW. If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, and in particular, the modelling industry, what would it be and why?
WHERE DO I BEGIN?? Diversity is still a huge problem, not just in the modelling world but behind the scenes too. Being at fashion week is really scary when you look around the room and see 80% of the people seated are white. We need to extend our diversity beyond modelling (which is so important, but it’s only the face of a very elitist industry). We need to ensure that beyond the faces of these brands the companies themselves are also diverse, otherwise this is still just tokenism and capitalising on marginalised groups. Also the concept of followers = value. Followers have become a scarily huge part of the industry and completely toxic for not only everyone's mental health but also how people navigate booking creatives. It’s also a really toxic pressure to work under.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?
I don’t want to give the game away but I guess we will all find out together.
courtesy BETSY JOHNSON
interview HANNAH DEAKIN
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