How a Couture Pioneer Changed Fashion

She shopped at Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, Valentino,PucciEmanuel Ungaro, and Pierre Cardin. She spent as much as $1.5 million a year on fashion in some years, her company estimates. But couturiers’ doors didn’t open easily for Eunice Johnson, because for a long time she was a rarity: an African-American fashion client. Mrs. Johnson, who died in 2010, ran the Ebony Fashion Fair, a runway show that traveled around the U.S. from 1958 to 2009, displaying high fashion for an African-American audience. The wife of publishing mogul John Johnson, founder of EBONY magazine, she bought some 7,000 items of clothing and accessories over her lifetime, for the show and for her personal collection. Now, curators at the Chicago History Museum are combing through her collection to create a March 2013 exhibition. Mrs. Johnson didn’t shy from cutting-edge fashion, and the trove includes dramatic Pierre Cardin and Emilio Pucci designs from the 1960s and 1970s. There is also a well-known “Picasso” dress from Yves Saint Laurent, a gown designed by Alexander McQueen during his brief stint as Givenchy’s creative director and two Paco Rabanne hot-pant ensembles made of plastic discs. “Anybody would be bowled over by what Mrs. Johnson was able to collect in her lifetime,” says Joy Bivins, the Chicago History Museum curator of the coming exhibition. READ MORE: http://www.ebony.com/black-listed/style/how-a-couture-pioneer-changed-fashion

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