Life is sweet for Betsey Johnson. Heavenly, actually.
The iconic designer, 74, recently said goodbye to New York City, setting down stakes in Malibu, California, living the beach life.
Just as she likes it, Johnson remains the master of her own destiny. After shuttering her retail locations roughly four years ago, the 74-year-old hipster known for her wacky, colorful designs works when the feeling strikes.
Her latest project is a collaboration with DreamWorks — Johnson has designed a line of accessories for the “Trolls” animated movie, starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. It’s out Nov. 4.
“It’s fun, great stuff — very up,” said Johnson, who stopped by Macy’s Dadeland last Saturday to show off the Betsey Johnson xox “Trolls” collection that includes furry key chains, glittery bags, even sparkly dog collars from $16 to $140. “I’m on troll roll!”
Johnson especially enjoyed meeting with fans.
“I was such a hit in Miami! I looked out at the audience, and there were so many people were wearing my vintage clothes,” said the Connecticut native, who opened her first boutique on NYC’s Upper East Side in 1969. “It’s wild. There are three generations now — from 2-year-olds to 60- and -70-year-old women. The grandmas and their offspring and their offspring.”
Johnson believes she knows the secret to her longtime success: People know what to expect because her style doesn’t evolve — the clothes are still as lovably eccentric and funky as ever.
“I don’t want to change,” admitted Johnson, whose label is now owned by Steve Madden’s Madden Group. “I like what I like, and I stick to it. I’m not about to go with the latest trends or whatever. I know my customer.”
But change sometimes can be a good thing. Like decamping to Malibu, where she met her current boyfriend, a Mexican businessman, on a blind date in a coffee shop about six months ago.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she said of her beau Efran (no last name, please). “We just work. He’s fabulous.”
And speaking of fabulous, life out in Cali isn’t too shabby.
“I never thought I would move to the West Coast,” said Johnson.”But I live in this tiny dollhouse in an amazing little trailer park [the upscale Paradise Cove]. It’s an amazing beach community. It ain’t New York, that’s for sure. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
Though it sounds like the seemingly indefatigable Johnson is slowing down slightly, don’t even mention the R word to her.
“I don’t want to retire. I always need a project,” said the designer, who still does her signature cartwheels and splits after a runway show. “I’m always going to work.”
Next up: opening up a hotel in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, called the Betsey Villa.
“It’s going to be fun and colorful and great. It will be me!”