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Bidding Adieu: Eunice W. Johnson (1916-2010)

January 13, 2010

Not too long ago, fashion week was a hush gathering for the industry’s elite. Makeup brands like MAC didn’t dominate the beauty counters nor did magazines for women of color. Thanks to people like Eunice W. Johnson, one won’t have to consider the possibilities in the ever-growing fashion industry.

Eunice W. Johnson was married to publisher John H. Johnson, whose influential titles Ebony and Jet kept the African-American community in the know. Her role, however, far extended the duties of being a doting wife and mother: Johnson named Ebony magazine, launched one of the first cosmetic brands for minorities and created the world’s largest traveling fashion show.

Eunice W. Johnson with Yves Saint Laurent

EBONY Fashion Fair was the first of its kind to bring haute couture to the masses – all you had to do was purchase a ticket. It proved itself a success, but Johnson still had to fight for her place in fashion as a respected visionary. Equipped with a budget allowing across the globe travel, Johnson purchased the finest couture and built relationships with some of the greatest designers, including Yves Saint Laurent.

Sadly, EBONY Fashion Fair ended in 2009. As for Fashion Fair Cosmetics, it is still one of the highest grossing cosmetic lines for women of color.

The impact of Mrs. Johnson’s achievements proves that anything is possible and while it may seem like an obstacle, pigmentation does not determine success. Runways, though lacking in color, aren’t indicative of the number of designers, models, editors and fashion influencers who are slowly building up their own legacy. One day, we too will leave our imprint on the world; one can only hope that it’s as significant as Mrs. Eunice W. Johnson’s.

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