Betsey Johnson Wants to Retire After Her September Show

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Betsey Johnson takes the train to the Hamptons, but the commute is getting to her. “I’m swearing after last weekend that I will never leave on Friday again,” the designer said at the launch party for By Invitation Only, a novel set in the Hamptons. “I should be retired. I’m basically screwing up because I’m not retired. I’d like to go in four days a month, something like that,” Johnson told us. She wants to travel, and says she and her partner, Chantal Bacon, have been working on a succession plan for a year. “My partner and I, we both want to know what would it be like to get up in the morning and go, ‘What do I do today?’” Johnson said.

Johnson believes Eric Sartori, who previously designed for Vera Wang, Hervé Léger, and Azzedine Alaïa, will become the brand’s head designer. “He is the one,” she says. “He’s much better than I am. He just has to Betsey-fy himself.” Johnson wants to hand over the reins after her September show. "But I’ll be a megaconsultant. I’ll go in. I want to be like Ralph [Lauren]. Like, I always imagined the perfect life is like Ralph, where he goes in, and his wonderful expert crews show him work, and he goes, 'Love it, love it, love it, um, we’ll just put that aside for the moment, love it, love it, hmmm.' You know what I mean?" she said. "And be that — be the inspiration, the light at the end of the tunnel, the fairy godmother that comes down."

Johnson says she’s never been able to let go, and she and her partner never feel anything is right “unless we do it or tweak it or correct it. ... And we’ve got to learn to get over that, because we want to wake up and have nothing to do,” she says. “And it is very, very hard to find your clone. It makes you figure out what you are and why, and is that working, and is that what you stand for, and is that what the business goes forward with? It’s really difficult, and I highly suggest thinking about it in your forties instead of your sixties.”