The Ebony Fashion Fair, first launched in 1958 by Eunice Johnson, revolutionized the fashion world with African-American models hitting the runway dressed in high couture designs. Johnson’s daughter Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing — the mothership company of Jet and Ebony magazines — is poised to auction off the collection for $153,000, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.
The Ebony Fashion Fair was a touring fashion show. Johnson would travel to Europe and purchase gowns from the best designers. She also would hire Black models to strut in these high fashion designs. But over the years, the dazzling showcase wound down and eventually got cancelled in 2009.
Rice is now left with 568 pieces from her mother’s collection and she believes it would be best to auction off the historic selection of high fashion designs.
“It’s the best of the best. We can only do so many things with these clothes, so why not let others have an opportunity to have a piece of history—to own it, wear it and enjoy it?” Rice said.
The auction features couture gowns that were splashed on the covers of Ebony Fashion Fair programs and graced national magazines. There are coats, dresses, and other frocks that show off the best couture projects of great fashion masterminds, including Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Bob Mackie, Carolina Herrera, Hanae Mori, and Issey Miyake.
“There’s a wide range of designers and they would appeal to a broad audience, and when you have something that appeals to a broad audience, it makes people excited to bid,” said Anne Forman, director of luxury accessories and vintage fashion for the auction house.
Prices for each piece are reasonable for couture standards, ranging from $200 to $500. The auction, conducted by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, is expected to reel in $153,000. This isn’t the first time, by the way, that the collection was open to bidders. Originally starting with 3,000 pieces, there were auctions held in 2011 and 2013.
The auction will be held on June 10 and a portion of the proceeds will go to Johnson College Prep, a Noble charter school in South Side Chicago. The rest will go to Johnson Publishing, which needs the money to right the course amidst a challenging media climate.