Betsey Johnson boutique closes in Toronto

July 5, 2012

By Julia Eskins

Photography from FAJO’s archives

For nearly 10 years, Betsey Johnson’s Yorkville store has been an outpost for all things frilly, studded, tulle and pink. Even the most conservative shoppers have turned to the Toronto boutique to spice up their wardrobes with the designer’s signature aesthetic.

The shop is now one of 63 Betsey Johnson LLC. retail locations that have closed their doors due to Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While mass liquidation a few weeks ago had left the once colourful space unrecognizably bare, the brand itself is far from dead. Fashion designer Johnson will remain as the creative director, while working with Steve Madden Ltd., the company’s intellectual property rights owner since 2010, on a moderately priced line.

Johnson’s boutique in Yorkville was one of Toronto’s fashion staples.

Though a few select flagships will remain open, June was the end of an era for the Toronto boutique and its longtime staff.

“Betsey is every woman. It’s honestly one of the best companies I’ve ever worked for. Where else do you get to wake up in the morning and put on pink shoes?” said Greg, an employee of Betsey Johnson’s Yorkville store for six years.

The boutique closed on June 28.

After hearing the news at the end of April, Greg and the rest of the staff were clearing out all inventory, including store fixtures.

“These past couple of weeks have been heartbreaking. It’s almost like people are buying pieces of your soul,” he said prior to boutique’s closing.

“But we are going out with a bang and staying until the very end. We’re doing it for Betsey!”

According to Steve Madden, the company will continue to focus on the wholesale side of the business and continue to sell at department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.

“While this particular licensee may be closing, the Betsey Johnson brand is stronger than ever, with a thriving wholesale business across a range of product categories,” Madden told Forbes Magazine.

Johnson will continue to design editorial style pieces, in addition to starring in a new reality TV show with her daughter Lulu, set to air this month.

Even in a down turned economy, the designer, who turns 70 this year, shows no signs of slowing down. With new projects in the works and plans to continue designing, it seems her catwalk cartwheel days are far from over.

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