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Betsey back and caught on camera
Betsey Johnson. Picture: Foxtel

Life hasn't always been kind to New York designer Betsey Johnson.

While the flamboyant style icon enjoyed much success early on in her fashion years, things came to an abrupt halt in 2009 when her eponymous label was hit hard as a result of the financial crisis.

It eventually forced Johnson to close her boutiques across the US last year, with the 70-year-old then declaring herself bankrupt.

But she was thrown a lifeline this year when shoe king Steve Madden bought the brand and appointed the designer as creative director.

Just before Madden and Johnson sealed the deal on their new business venture, TV producers came knocking on her door with a pitch - to capture her return to the fashion scene, as well as all the real-life dramas between her and her daughter Lulu Johnson, for her own self-titled reality TV series.

Johnson senior was suitably thrilled with the idea.

"I tell ya, it's not the Real Housewives," she cackled over the phone from her Manhattan apartment.

"I think it's more of a dramedy. There was such a craze of everybody wanting a reality show but it was a complete surprise to us. The idea of doing a reality show never really occurred to us.

"It's definitely not filled with boyfriends and girls fighting. It's more on my life and Lulu's life, the mother-daughter life, the work life and all that stuff.

"It just came together within two or three weeks, then we started filming."

While it sounds a bit risque for the mother-daughter duo to allow cameras to shadow them at such a rocky time in their lives - Lulu had just emerged from a painful divorce and Johnson was feeling lost and vulnerable after the bankruptcy - Johnson was adamant it couldn't have come at a better time.

"It's a nice little documentary at a crazy zone in my life," she said.

"I was at a moment in my life where I thought 'Do I want to continue with the corporate side?' I didn't feel much love and support from my work world and so the show coming along - being very supportive of who I am, Lulu and our relationship, and my work - it saved me."

Sadly, the show, XOX Betsey Johnson, was axed after just three episodes in the US.

But that did nothing to hinder Johnson's excitement about the series hitting Aussie screens on Foxtel's Style channel. It started screening in Australia last month and the full season will be shown here.

"I tell ya, the Australian excitement has been bigger than the New York excitement," she said.

"People who watched the show really loved it over here but they were mostly friends, customers, fashion students. So I feel great about it and I'm so happy for more people to see it."

XOX Betsey Johnson airs only on Foxtel's Style channel Thursdays at 5.30pm.