Fashion Week: One for the Money, Two for the Show; Betsey Johnson Is Putting Bunnies on the Catwalk
''I just wanted sexy, girlish, voluptuous, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, but with a sense of what's happening now,'' Betsey Johnson said, her eyes popping open. ''And I thought: playmates.''
There is hardly a more legitimate hook for an American fashion show than 30 Playboy bunnies. After all, what is a bunny if not the girl next door (or at least the fantasy version of her)?
How many people, in or out of the fashion world, can possibly hope to identify with a 6-foot supermodel who looks as if she rises every morning from the flatbed of a shirt press and starts walking?
Well, they can't, and that's where Suzanne Stokes of Everglades City, Fla., comes in. Ms. Stokes speaks as if she were raised among kittens. She is blond and adorable, and for specifics one can turn to the February 2000 issue of Playboy, where Ms. Stokes was the playmate of the month.
How she got her job is not terribly complicated. ''You just take off your clothes, and they take pictures of you,'' she said. But Ms. Stokes and her sister bunnies, seven of whom gathered last week in Ms. Johnson's studio at 498 Seventh Avenue for fittings, know that it takes more than decolletage to be a bunny, although it helps.
''You have to be friendly,'' Ms. Stokes purred.
As Ms. Stokes ambled off to try on something pretty, Ava Fabian, the August 1986 playmate, took a few turns in her dress, a strapless, full-skirted number in a cotton print, which Ms. Fabian said reminded her of the flirty styles one used to see on ''Dallas.''
Many of Ms. Johnson's new spring looks, which will be shown Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in Bryant Park, have a nostalgic ring. But, then, what are Playboy bunnies for if not to push a few buttons?