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Working with Betsey Johnson

A while ago now I got chatting with Robin Avidor from Rockin’ Robin’s Red Nest and it turns out she used to work with the fabulous Betsey Johnson! As I’m sure so many of you do I have always loved and admired Betsey so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out more, and what working with the incredible fashion icon was like.

The wonderfully quirky Betsey Johnson.

Sarah Jane: When did you first start working with Betsey and how did you get the job?

Robin: I started working with Betsey in 1982/83, I had been working at FCUK and wasn't too happy. I had loved Betsey's designs but never thought I would end up working with her.

I was browsing Women’s Wear Daily and there it was, an advert for a job at Betsey Johnson. I almost died! So I called and I got an interview, I was ecstatic! Then came the panic! What do I wear? After going through every possible combination of my wardrobe, it hit me! I had bought the best Betsey Johnson "suit" at Trash & Vaudeville. I decided that was what I would wear and I did. The interview day quickly came and I walked into the tiny showroom and knew I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Sarah Jane: Why did you not liking working for FCUK?

Robin: There wasn't any design or opinion, when the line came in all we did was show it, so it wasn't creative. Also, we didn't get the small boutiques as much so showing the line was always very corporate.

In the background: Robin is seen in a velvet purple dress.

Sarah Jane: What was your roll within her company? And what did you do during that roll?

Robin: When I first started working with Betsey it was a very small operation. We were in a tiny two-room place. The first room was the showroom and the other was our office. We all shared the office, which wasn't too bad because there were only four or five of us.

I did anything that had to be done including painting! My hubby and I actually painted the show room Betsey’s signature pink!

We all worked together as a team brainstorming in design meetings, making cold calls to boutiques all over the states to promote the line. I remember calling potential buyers who had never heard of Betsey then, but as we all know the company quickly grew and grew! Next thing we knew we were moving into a big new showroom. I was even given my own office, well cubicle, but it was all mine!

As the company grew so did my job. I became what you would call the northeast sales rep and the public relations rep. I travelled every six weeks and could have even more but I turned it down. In retrospect I should have travelled more.

I also showed some of our collections to top magazine editors, and picked out outfits to send them when they couldn't come to us. I worked with stylists and assisted in dressing Downtown Julie Brown, one of the first video journalists for MTV.

In addition to all of this, there were plenty of times I was thrown in front of a camera to do interviews and did photo shoots. I still have all the footage of me on a VHS tape.

Part of my job was also to be seen in her clothes. So for the 6years I worked there that was all I wore.

Sarah Jane: What were your favourite and your least favourite part of the job?

Robin: I guess the best was being in designs meetings. It was a great experience to work with such a talented team lead by Betsey Johnson. But when we insisted on a design being in the collection we were expected to sell at least 300 pieces of it, so there was a lot of pressure too.

In the background: Robin wearing a purple velvet Betsey Johnson dress.

Sarah Jane: What was Betsey like?

Robin: Betsey was great to work with. She was as kookie as you could imagine but kind and open to our opinions and ideas. She was very energetic and lived and breathed creating and recreating her designs all of the time. When under pressure she was very intense and persistent. 

Sarah Jane: Why did you leave? Would you go back?

Robin: I know I am so lucky to have had the best possible career for me during the time I was with her. I left because I couldn't see raising kids and working in such an intense and involved job including travelling.

Oh yeah, I am ready to go back now When I left working there I left my whole life behind to start a new one. I just didn't know how to incorporate both.

I had to rediscover myself without her, I didn't own any clothes other than hers; I didn't even own a pair of jeans.

So I packed up all of my clothes and memories and put them in the attic and didn't look back for a long time. I really wish I would have not been so strict with myself and allowed myself to stay in touch with my former life. But I just couldn't figure it out, how to do both. So I immersed myself in being a "super" mum for many years and never looked back.

Big mistake because after a few years I really missed my old life. I felt I had closed a door behind me and that I could not open it again.

To find out more about Robin and what she does now you can find her lovely little fashion blog here



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