Over the past 51 years the Ebony Fashion Fair has presented approximately 5,000 fashion shows and raised more than $55 million for charity. And tomorrow (October 22), fashion lovers everywhere will have the opportunity to own a piece of that rich and stylish history.
The Ebony Fashion Fair has selected nearly 7,000 items of clothing, shoes and accessories from its archives to be auctioned at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois. If you don't happen to be in Chicago, the auction house accepts call-ins and also accommodates online bidding. Gotta love technology.
"You literally have the opportunity to walk away with an iconic item that was hand-selected by my mother, Eunice Johnson, who had a great eye and traveled the world to buy these clothes," Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of the Johnson Publishing Company, told HuffPost BlackVoices.
For those unfamiliar with the Ebony Fashion Fair, it has been deemed "The World's Largest Traveling Fashion Show," and was produced and directed by Eunice Johnson, wife of John H. Johnson, the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company.
Best known for its theatrical presentations in which a cast of beautiful black models of all shapes and sizes whirled, swirled and danced down the runway in high-end designer clothing, the show was a must-see event. At its height, the show would travel to 170 cities over a period of eight months.
Johnson remembers the countless shopping trips her mother would take year after year to the fashion capitals of the world --Paris, Milan, London, Rome and New York -- in order to acquire the clothes for the shows.
"She wanted to show African Americans the most current, the most wonderful, the most lavish styles in the world," recalled Johnson. "She brought the audience a sense of fantasy and a sense of aspiration and inspiration."
The auction will be the public's first opportunity to purchase the actual items that were sent down the Ebony Fashion Fair runway. Each and every piece was handpicked and purchased by Eunice since the show's beginning in 1958.
Christian Dior, Carolina Herrera, Stephen Burrows, Pierre Cardin, Oscar de la Renta and Missoni are just a sampling of the designer labels that are available for purchase. And with bidding starting as low as $80 for a pair of shoes and $100 for an evening gown, it may not break the bank to own a piece of history.
Sadly, the show was put on hiatus after Eunice died in 2010. And although some believe the show is no longer relevant, Johnson plans to relaunch the Ebony Fashion Fair in 2012 with the help of Desiree Rogers, who was named CEO of the Johnson Publishing Company last year when Johnson stepped down to become chairman.
"We're working out strategies on how to revamp the show and push it forward," said Johnson.
The future of the show looks bright. Rogers knows a thing or two about organizing a successful event: she is the former White House Social Secretary for the Obama administration, serving from 2008 to 2010.
The auction begins Saturday, October 22 at 10 a.m. For more information and to bid, visit the Leslie Hindman Aucitoneers website. All proceeds from the sale will go to Johnson College Prep, a charter high school in Chicago named after Johnson's parents, and to the Johnson Publishing Company.
Here's a sneak peek of the stunning items being auctioned and a glimpse into the fabulous history of "The World's Largest Traveling Fashion Show."