eunice johnson

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Urban Princess: Throwback Thursday

Eunice Johnson, co-founder of Ebony Magazine, sits in her office at the Johnson Publishing Co. in 1970; Front row at the Pauline Trigere show, 1971; EuniceYves Saint Laurent; Eunice & Alva Chin in Valentino, 1975; Eunice & Christian Dior; Eunice & Karl Lagerfeld;vintage photo of Ebony Fashion Fair

Johnson paved the way for the blacks in the fashion world.  She broke down barriers by making cold calls to fashion houses and requesting invitations to come and view their collections in NY, Paris, to Milan.  She was determined to let blacks be part of the best of the best in fashion.  

Her daughter Linda Johnson Rice said of her mother:

“She was very intelligent, very persuasive…..and looked the part”.

Yes, surely the her Dior suits and jewels helped open doors, but let’s not forget her large bank account.  Unlike other fashion insiders who would want to come and borrow flocks, Eunice would buy them….by the hundreds!

She started the Ebony Fashion Fair with just a small group of black models touring the US on a greyhound bus. All of this happened right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement.  The bus driver, an ex-marine, had to carry a rifle with him at all times just in case the Ku Klux Kan attempted to run them out of town.

Eunice started Johnson Publishing Co. with her husband John H. Johnson in 1942 with just a $500 hundred dollar loan.  They went onto to become the first black billionaires on the Forbes list. 

To find out more on this inspiring lady. Check out an exhibition in Chicago dedicated in her memory.

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair opens at the Chicago History Museum on March 16, 2013, and runs through January 5, 2014.