Fashion to Empower

Behind the scenes of the Ebony Fashion Fair

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen, Evening Dress, haute couture, fall/winter 1997–98, synthetic raffia mounted on silk gauze, appeared in The Jazz Age of Fashions; Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC

For 50 years, the traveling Ebony Fashion Fair helped redefine beauty, fashion and empowerment for African-Americans.

Eunice Johnson at work, 1970, photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

Eunice Johnson at work, 1970, photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

Now, get behind the scenes of the famous charity fashion show as the North Carolina Museum of Art presents “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.”

“This stunning exhibition will not only highlight some of the most iconic fashion ensembles shown during the Ebony Fashion Fair, but it will also explore the impact that this show had on African-American identity, style and success,” said Jennifer Dasal, NCMA associate curator of contemporary art and co-curator of the exhibition.

“By featuring black models, fashion designers, makeup artists and consumers, the Fashion Fair and (show founder) Eunice Johnson helped redefine concepts of beauty and fashion in America — and in doing so, played a key role in empowering African-Americans nationwide.”

The Ebony Fashion Fair grew out of the pages of Ebony magazine, which was first published in 1945. It was founded by Johnson, who owned Johnson Publishing Company, distributor of Ebony, with her husband, John Johnson.

Jean Louis Scherrer, Day Ensemble, haute couture, fall/winter 2000–01, fox, goat, mink, Persian lamb and leather, appeared in Fashion Sensation; photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

Jean Louis Scherrer, Day Ensemble, haute couture, fall/winter 2000–01, fox, goat, mink, Persian lamb and leather, appeared in Fashion Sensation; photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

The NCMA exhibit features 40 ensembles by designers such as Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Bob Mackie, Alexander McQueen and Missoni.

It also highlights archival photographs and memorabilia from Ebony magazine and Ebony Fashion Fair.

“Ebony Fashion Fair was a true agent of change, raising tens of millions of dollars for numerous African-American charities over its 50 years, providing positive images for black men and women, and launching the careers of many black fashion designers, models, makeup artists and hair stylists,” said Linda Dougherty, NCMA’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art and co-curator of the exhibition.

“We hope that by hosting this exhibition, we continue the mission of positive change and community empowerment and encourage our visitors to rethink their own concepts of beauty.”

“Inspiring Beauty” begins this Saturday, Oct. 28, and runs through Jan. 21, 2018. Find more information here.

Vivienne Westwood, Ball Gown, special order, fall/winter 2002–03, silk ribbon taffeta with hand-silkscreened print, appeared in Simply Spectacular; photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

Vivienne Westwood, Ball Gown, special order, fall/winter 2002–03, silk ribbon taffeta with hand-silkscreened print, appeared in Simply Spectacular; photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company LLC.

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