#TBT: Ebony Fashion Fair

Raise your hand if you ever attended and Ebony Fashion Fair extravaganza. I miss this experience…and after having spent a semester researching Ebony, I miss it all the more. It was a social occasion that called for one’s finest ensemble-including one’s fur coat-and it presented an opportunity to see haute couture up close, something rare in Mobile and Pensacola.

Ebony Fashion Fair was the brainchild of Selma-native Eunice Walker Johnson, who was educated at Talladega College. It began in 1958 as a fundraiser for a New Orleans hospital and grew to travel to over 200 cities, raising millions for charities in the process. To see some of the glamour for yourself, the Chicago History Museum has a traveling exhibit entitled “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.” It’s currently in Atlanta through January 4, 2015. It features pieces from Valentino, Ungaro, Pierre Cardin, Dior, Emilio Pucci and Givenchy.

You may have heard the news that Kathy Griffin will replace Joan Rivers on E!’s Fashion Police. Brad Goreski will replace George Kotsiopoulos. While I enjoy Griffin’s sense of humor, I think this was a missed opportunity to diversify the cast. The Ebony Fashion Fair made diversity visible on and off the runway, and I believe Mrs. Johnson was ahead of her time.




Fashion Flashback: Fashion Fair Cosmetics

Ahhh, Fashion Fair!  Just the name brings back memories of ladylike pink compacts and lipstick cases, of berry lipsticks and frosty eyeshadows.  Visiting Miss Ann at the makeup counter in Pensacola’s Gayfers department store was always a treat, because she would make sure we left loaded with free samples!  I couldn’t wait to grow up just so Miss Ann could make me over.  For women who came of age before MAC, Lancome, and other department store cosmetic brands catered to women of color, Fashion Fair celebrated our glamour in all its hues (just as its creators’ – Mr. and Mrs. John H. Johnson – showcased the best of African-American lifestyles in Ebony magazine each month).   The prestige brand has recently enjoyed a resurgence, and veteran celeb makeup artist Sam Fine  has been named creative director.   Take a look back at some of Fashion Fair’s chic vintage ads below (featuring Diahann Carroll, Nancy Wilson,  Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin)!

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Images courtesy of Vintage Black Glamour

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