NEW YORK — "The bitch is back," Betsey Johnsony declared, as the Elton John song blared on the sound system at the end of her fashion show Monday — the most unusual one I've seen in a decade at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
And, indeed, she is.
Johnson, who declared bankruptcy last spring and closed her stores, has resurrected her career with a lower-priced dress line and a reality TV show that premieres on the Style Network next month. (Her company is now owned by Steve Madden.)
A frenetic ball of energy with a devoted band of followers, the 70-year-old Johnson introduced her new line of activewear, called "Betsey kicks A," by leading an exercise class on the runway.
A frenetic ball of energy with a devoted band of followers, the 70-year-old designer introduced her new line of activewear, called "Betsey kicks A," by leading an exercise class on the runway.
She and a team of 16 models did push-ups, pull-ups, crunches and cardio, using champagne bottles with weights before Johnson ended the show performing her trademark cartwheel — twice — and perfectly executed splits.
The models doffed outwear — a polka-dotted puffy jacket, faux fur vests, a black-and-white leather jacket with a red heart on the back (that's considered traditional by Johnson's standards) — to reveal colorful leggings, a neon-colored peplum sweatshirt, and pink and black tutus and animal-print workout wear.
Veering away from the prom party dresses that Johnson is known for was probably a smart move to freshen up the line. With this collection, Johnson shows there's a lot of life in the old girl yet.
And just try to keep up with her in an exercise class.
Johnson wasn't the only longtime designer — all women of a certain age — to show the young 'uns a thing or two about free-spirited fun.
Diane von Furstenberg, 66, returned to her Studio 54 disco diva days with a collection of greatest hits inspired by the era in a show titled, "Glam Rock." In her program notes, von Furstenberg declared that "Life is a Party" and, in her first collection since her chief designer Yves Mispelaere abruptly left the company, she concentrated on clothes for the girl who wants to have fun.
As Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" blared over the sound system, von Furstenberg offered her trademark wrap dress in a variety of styles along with metallic blazers over leopard printed pants, quilted jackets over metallic pants, hot pink suits, print chiffon blouses, velour-like jackets and dresses in chain-print patterns.
At the end of the show, von Furstenberg seemed so pleased with the collection that she boogied to Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" for a few seconds as she make her traditional runway walk.
Donna Karan, 64, has also returned to the past by reissuing a limited capsule collection of 15 favorite DKNY pieces from the early '90s in a collaboration with Opening Ceremony. They include oversize T-shirts and sweats with a hip-hop vibe.
The DKNY fall 2013 collection that Karan debuted Sunday mirrowed that look back with a return to the brand's grittier grunge roots, even if neoprene and chemise are now the fabrics of choice.
With a MTV-style video of New York landmarks in the background, the collection included some nifty outerwear — oversized coats with camel, black and white panels, animal print bombers with black leather sleeves — along with quilted red dresses and long colorblock gowns.
Biggie Smalls' 2004 remix of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" provided a fitting finale.