Tireless Betsey Johnson gets more active for fall with gym-inspired clothes for the party set

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Tireless Betsey Johnson gets more active for fall with gym-inspired clothes for the party set

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Betsey Johnson didn't just have a party at Lincoln Center. She led an exercise class.

The tireless 71-year-old designer, best known for punky prom dresses and a lot of pink, introduced her fall collection Monday as a theatrical exercise video for the Style Network program "Betsey and Lulu," which follows the lives of Johnson and her daughter.

It was a catwalk of energetic, giggly models in active wear chatting on cellphones as they waved to attendees, then an exercise routine led by the designer that included running in place, yoga and pull-ups. Rows of pink yoga mats were strewn on the runway, each accompanied by a pair of high-top sneakers, towels and wine bottles.

The collection, named "BJ Kicks A," veered from the high school dance party looks that she has championed for decades, running toward a junior high school gym class with a lot of cheek. It was an explosion of neon pink and yellow, animal prints and plaids on mini dresses worn over leggings, a veritable visual feast piled over one another.

A bright yellow and black tartan plaid mini dress served as the base for black leggings, a shiny red belt, and a black-and-white patent leather jacket accented in lipstick red and backed with a giant red heart. A string of white pearls alluded to the idea that perhaps the dress could be appropriate outside the gym. And to top it off, the models — as well as Johnson — pulled their hair into long ponytails, then donned contrasting bowl-cut style wigs to demonstrate just how flouncy it all could be.

Taken as separates, the clothes were more approachable than Johnson's standard party looks, and somehow more on-trend. The leggings, some in solid black, others in brightly colored camouflage or neon floral prints, was a Johnson take on the printed trouser look.

A sheer animal-print dress was in neutral browns and had a calf-length hem, as did many of the other dresses in the collection. A neon floral printed peplum sweatshirt was a fun take on an office-y silhouette, and the handful of faux-fur coats and vests looked surprisingly luxe. As a whole, branching out beyond prom dresses was a smart move for the brand, which filed for bankruptcy protection more than a year ago and is now owned by Steve Madden.

Closing the show, the models took to the yoga mats as Johnson emerged in leggings and neon-yellow high-top sneakers and flopped to the floor. As she and the models ran through the gamut of exercise routines — push-ups with their hands in the extra pairs of sneakers, weight lifts with the wine bottles, yoga positions and leg stretches — the message was clear: this is active wear, so be active in it!

By the time the sweaty models — some tired and barely keeping up — exited the runway, Johnson's trademark show-ending cartwheel and ensuing split didn't look so out of place after all.

Organizations: Lincoln Center, Johnson's

Geographic location: NEW YORK, N.Y.

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