Ebony Fashion Fair

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Ebony Fashion Fair
Fashion Show
GenreClothing and fashion exhibitions
Founded1958; 62 years ago (1958)
FounderEunice W. Johnson Edit this on Wikidata
Defunct2009; 11 years ago (2009)
HeadquartersJohnson Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois
Key people
Eunice Walker–Johnson
ProductsCosmetics (1973)

Ebony Fashion Fair (also known as the Ebony Traveling Fashion Fair) was an annual fashion event created by Eunice Johnson, co–founder of the Chicago, Illinois–based Johnson Publishing Company. The show ran across the United States and other countries from 1958 until 2009. In addition to the fashion fair, the company also created a cosmetic line named Fashion Fair Cosmetics, in 1973. As of 2017, Fashion Fair Cosmetics are still available for purchase.


In 1956, John H. Johnson,[1] founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, was approached by Jessie Dent[2](the wife of the then-current president of Dillard University), who asked Johnson to supply models for a charity fundraiser benefiting the Flint-Goodridge Hospital[3] located on Dillard University's New Orleans campus. Reluctant to use the models featured in the magazines published by his company, Johnson instead offered to provide the clothing. Johnson and Dent then came to an agreement: Johnson Publishing Company would supply the garments for the fundraiser, and, each ticket to enter the show would include a subscription to either Ebony[4] or Jet Magazine—both published by Johnson's company.

The Ebony Fashion Fair was launched in 1958 by the Johnson Publishing company and repeated annually for five decades under Eunice Walker Johnson;[5][6] the director and producer of the show. The Ebony Fashion Fair (also known as the Ebony Travelling Fashion Fair), traveled to 30 cities over its 51-year run providing exclusive fashion to “hundreds of thousands attendees across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean” (Bivins.11).[7] The show was held in 187 venues with audiences as large as 5,000 attendees. The Ebony Fashion Fair not only helped to boost the Johnson Publishing Company's brand identity, it also raised $55 million in funds for African American Charities.[8] The show featured male and female models of mostly African-American descent modeling fashions from top European designers such as: Yves St Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino, and Emanuel Ungaro.[9] The Fashion Fair held its last show in 2009, due to Eunice Walkers' death in January, 2010.[10]

Fashion Fair Cosmetics[edit]

When Eunice Johnson noticed that the models at the Ebony Fashion Fair "were mixing foundations to create the right blend to match their hues", she initially approached existing cosmetics companies and asked them to develop make-up lines which would suit the specific needs of women of color. However, as she was met with resistance from the companies she approached, she and her husband, John H. Johnson, created the Caspsule Collection: a small make-up compact in a mail-order package. Due to high-demand, the product led to the creation of a full cosmetic line named Fashion Fair Cosmetics, after the fashion show in 1973. According to Fortune, Fashion Fair Cosmetics was once the largest black-owned cosmetics company in the world.[11] In April 2019, a United Kingdom creditor petitioned a judge to force the company to sell its Fashion Fair Cosmetics UK assets.[12] In November 2019, the brand was acquired by Cheryl Mayberry McKissack and Desirée Rogers.[13]


From March 2013 thru May 2014, the Chicago History Museum displayed an exhibition titled Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years Of Ebony Fashion Fair. The exhibition featured several ensembles featured in Fashion Fair shows during its half-century history.[14][15] The exhibition traveled nationally beginning in fall 2014, with stops including the Museum of Design Atlanta and the Milwaukee Art Museum.[16]


  1. ^ "John H. Johnson". Biography. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  2. ^ "Movers and Shakers: The Dent Family". Amistad Research Center | Independent Archive. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  3. ^ "The history of Flint-Goodridge Hospital of Dillard University". Journal of the National Medical Association. 61 (6): 533–536. November 1, 1969. ISSN 0027-9684. PMC 2611800. PMID 4902313.
  4. ^ "The Ebony Fashion Fair: Changing History On The Catwalk". NPR.org. February 15, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  5. ^ "Eunice Walker Johnson | American entrepreneur". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  6. ^ "Ebony Fashion Fair and Eunice Johnson". America Comes Alive. February 9, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  7. ^ Bivins, Joy L; Adams, Rosemary K; Chicago History Museum (2013-01-01). Inspiring beauty: 50 years of Ebony Fashion Fair. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Historical Society. ISBN 9780913820377.
  8. ^ "The Ebony Fashion Fair: Changing History On The Catwalk". NPR.org. February 15, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Haute Couture of Eunice Johnson". Huffington Post.
  10. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (January 9, 2010). "Eunice Johnson Dies at 93; Gave Ebony Its Name". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  11. ^ Larson, Kristin (17 September 2019). "Can Fashion Fair Cosmetics Make a Comeback?". Fortune. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  12. ^ Chicago Crusader (Johnson Publishing files for bankruptcy) April 11, 2019
  13. ^ Clarke, Caroline V. (14 November 2019). "Can the New Owners of Fashion Fair Give the Once-Iconic Brand a Business Makeover?". Black Enterprise. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Chicago History Museum Ebony Fashion Fair 'Inspiring Beauty' Exhibit Opens Saturday". Huffington Post. March 15, 2013.
  15. ^ "Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair". Chicago History Museum. Archived from the original on 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-27.
  16. ^ "Inspiring Beauty venues". Chicago History Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28. Retrieved 2015-04-04.

See also[edit]