Betsey Johnson strikes a pose at the 13th Annual 2009 ACE Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. Photo: Getty Images

The queen of optimistic dressing, Betsey Johnson, made a special stop at her San Francisco store while on her way to Hawaii for some much-deserved R&R.

After pushing through the crinoline, leopard print and predominantly pink-clad crowd, StyleList caught up with the uber-girly New York designer to talk shop.

StyleList: The holidays are here and you're known for super festive clothing. What's your advice on dressing for the holidays?
Betsey Johnson: You should wear what makes you happy and what makes you feel good, and that really goes for every day, too. I think clothing can be used as communication and a starting point for a conversation. It's a great ice-breaker, so think about that when you're dressing for a party.

StyleList: After a rocky retail year for almost everyone in 2009, is your direction for 2010 any different?
Johnson: I'm making sure my direction is more unique and special. I'm sort of getting more out there and more creative. If someone is going to have to part with a couple weeks worth of paychecks to buy something, they should buy a piece that they're going to keep forever, that they really love and that they can't get anywhere else. That's the secret for us getting through this horrendous time.

StyleList: Would you ever consider doing a fast-fashion collaboration with a store like H&M or Target?
Johnson: I would love to! But with all of my licensing and other projects, I'm really busy. But I'd love to do that -- just a one-shot collection for one of those places. I really wish we had was our own diffusion line. But you have to have so much volume, with a capital 'V' to come out with prices like that.

StyleList: I'm sure you're already thinking about your Fall 2010 show in February. Anything you can tell us about that?
Johnson: Oh man, it hit me last week! I don't really know where I'm going with the collection, but it's so exciting because the show is going to be on Valentine's Day, which is my favorite holiday after Christmas. We're having a runway show at the Plaza Hotel again and that weekend we're also opening up the Eloise suite that I designed at the Plaza. So it's a big bang Eloise and me and Valentine's Day weekend.

StyleList: Edie Sedgwick used to be your model and muse. Who inspires you today?
Johnson: I like the classics -- Madonna and Tina Turner. And now Rihanna and Katy Perry. I love Rihanna. Oh, and Beyoncé! [Johnson starts singing the chorus from 'Single Ladies' and waves her left hand in the air]. I can watch that video ['Single Ladies'] a million times. My granddaugher is 3 1/2 and sings along. Beyoncé just keeps surprising us. It's amazing and it's believable.

StyleList: What about Lady Gaga?
Johnson: [Brief pause] I think Lady Gaga is a great writer and a great performer... she's just different. Time will tell. But there's nobody that holds a flame to Gwen Stefani. I'm just too old school, I go back too far. I like The Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, Nina Hagen and really pure down and dirty and real people like Janis Joplin.