50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair, an interview with Joy Bivins

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i'm dana schwartz and i'm the host new blood new history podcast from i heart radio and aaron main focuses on the stories of some of history's most fascinating royal from the infamous to be almost forgotten world is full of illfated love affairs bad decisions and family drama when you wing crown mistakes and be done listening subscribe at apple podcasts or on the iheartradio app or wherever you listen to podcasts just the history of fashion is they production and i heart radio in in in in in mm seven billion people in the world we all have one thing in common everyday we all get dressed welcome to dressed the history of fashion a podcast where we explore the who what when of why we where we are fashion historians enter host april callaghan an cassidy zachary april i have to say that i had today's guest on my radar since day one of this podcast i am very pleased to announce today's guest is joy that ends one of the curator's behind the landmark exhibition inspiring beauty fifty years of of any fashion fair kosher ended by virginia you're heavens exhibition is the first ever to celebrate the pioneering traveling fashion show in dubuque at the chicago history museum in twenty thirteen before travelling onto several other locations just as a fashion bear did for over fifty years and while the exhibition may have only traveled to a few different locations at its height the fashion fair with two hundred pieces of the most extravagant exciting pieces of high fashion intoe traveled to over one hundred and eighty cities cities and this is just in one season so just what is the fashion fair you might ask why is it arguably one of the most important contributions to fashion in the twentieth century to answer all things fashion fair we are pleased to welcome joined them instead the judge today welcome joy joy welcome to the show today is such a pleasure to have you here with us it's really awesome semi talking with you today so you the chief curator of the international african american museum in charleston south carolina and so before we dive into the of any fashion far i was hoping you could talk a little bit about the muse m asmar work there shore on me international african american museum is an institution that is slated to open in late two thousand twentyone it's been in the works for nearly two decades here in charleston south carolina in art museum is a scheduled to open or the side of art museum will be gaskins war which is right on charleston harbor in captains war if is really critical fight in the history of the transatlantic slave trade and really in the development of this part of the world it is a place where many african took their first steps here on the north american continent so it's estimated that more than forty percent of a africans who arrived here in the americas took their first steps on gas in more so art museum is located there and it really is insight that dedicated to telling stories about 'em africans african americans that builds a charleston south carolina but also about those connections to the larger african diaspora to the nation into the larger african diaspora so we have a lot of history and culture to cover at this institution and were working to get that done and in a short time here in charleston so i've been in the city of charleston for nearly a year now in my work is really to develop what that museum experience will be from me exhibitions and then also working without a archie genealogy is who's heading the center for family history which is are place where are visitors will be able to learn about their own personal pass plus a millennial pass as they come to this place where they can learn about african american history an offer the history of the larger african diaspora really credibly important means an end something it sounds like you're building helping to build from the ground floor up which is incredible and actually i i didn't realize at the museum wasn't open yet but there isn't actually a really great archive of a digital archive of photographs online that dress listeners should definitely check fuck out until you get to the music in a in a couple of years will be looking forward to that and we're here today to talk about ebony fashion fair which was the subject of an exhibition you cook traded west virginia heavens if you years ago at the chicago history museum exhibition was entitled inspiring beauty fifty years of be up in any fashion fair and i believe it traveled to north carolina museum of art am i correct yeah so stuck in traffic how did i miss that i really wish i yeah i did not i i found out about it after it closed so i'm a little embarrassed to say but on the garments on display were just incredible i do a copy of the catalog and before we get to the of any fashion fair specifically i won't talk about ebony magazine which was founded over seven years ago in nineteen forty five by john johnson so can you tell us about the magazines creator but also why the magazine what's hot unimportant publication for african american sure so ebony magazine was actually the second publication that the founder john h johnson a created in the nineteen forties the first was called negro digest in nineteen forty two in nineteen forty five he introduced ebony magazine to the world now ebony took a real page from life magazine which wasn't pictorial magazine i detected you know american life and had articles about different parts of the usa culture ebony was an accident a response to that kind of publication it sought to fill that gap within the african american community so the magazine really took on the project of creating a visual in age if you will of the best of african american life the best black life so it is the place where you went to see where where you could see black celebrities and black achievement and fashion and travel and so on and so forth and it really spoke to kind of the lack of that kind of publication that kind of media that would being addressed to an african american audience that was a really hungry just see images of itself that want defined by dominant culture so ultimately biz magazine started in nineteen forty five very quickly became a staple within many african american homes you know with the subscription magazine so it flourished in flourish out of chicago starting on the south side of chicago in the nineteen seventies that johnson publishing company move downtown chicago but it was always kind of moving farther north in the in the trajectory three of its history so the magazine became kind of a staple of african american culture is where you found your best draft women or you could find recipes where you could see who was hot who is not within the large african american culture and so over the decades long existent it really created an archive of african american life and culture here in the united states especially like how you discussed in these catalog how racist society in racial society while they were present in the magazine or certainly discussing the magazine it is no way it's focus who's really like you said focused on highlighting these more positive aspects of african american live you know something that if someone wasn't experiencing as of yet you could some things that you could aspire to and one of the things you could inspire to is to be 'em to follow fashion to be a part of fashion in that kind of leads me to my next question which is i'm hoping you could talk a little bit about what it was like to be an african american during the nineteen forties this is of course the world war two era segregated military's segregated everything and i know as a black woman during this period you could not just walk into a department store try something on you would have to purchase it and therefore own at to even give it a try and see if it even fit so incredibly polarizing a period to what wall for black people in the nineteen forties and obviously before a an well into the late nineteen sixties united states was a segregated racially segregated society so there were just avenues of american life that were close to you andy while we could really frame it as there are places where black people were capped out of what it did was it also created opportunities for black people to be entrepreneurial in terms terms of creating businesses that cater specifically to black consumers right so john johnson through ebony magazine is is not only showing these images of black people at the festival and and created and so and so forth he's also showing that there are black consumers who are looking to spend their money they use these products to an in many ways it's an untapped market and what he does is create some visual image of this market that dominant society in all of these companies that from which black people purchase are not they're not targeting them right so what's in the pages of the magazine you get a chance to see how african american actually living what they actually aspire to and aspire to be so which then you're right the nineteen forties the magazine zayn comes out after the war a world war two is completed 'em after the victory is want an you know many african americans were radicalized politicized by the second world war because they understood understood that they were fighting for their freedom of others but did not enjoy that free no at home john johnson understood that there was a market that was a just really waiting to see themselves in ways that a dominant media just did not show them and so there is a kind of like a perfect marriage and you see how civil rights through the history of the magazine becomes more and more important and it's on bigger and bigger stories more stories about it as the magazine which shores so wildlife yeah there were so many avenues in american society that were closed the african americans in the nineteen forties african americans were creating opportunities for themselves so you've had with in black neighborhoods all throughout the nation you know you're military shops milliner shop where you could purchase your hat that you know there was a seamstress and the designer and so and so forth where you purchase closed that she couldn't try on at maybe marshall fields for other stores throughout the nation so there was kind of like the there's this is very interesting tension and i think happening where the greater american society was closed but that engender kind of a greater creation of opportunity among african americans to do for themselves and like you said one of the ways in which they did that was in the closed they created for themselves and their communities and we are here to talk about clothing and specifically fashion fashioned fair which is incredible feature an ebony magazine i mean that became this traveling fashion extravaganza but before it was this a traveling show it was a future in the magazine and i'm hoping tell us about these early fashion features an they're important and not just sharing fashionable clothing with readership by really changing their relationship to change in relationship to the garment but there's also the magazine as a place to again expressed something that was already happening within the culture right so 'em african american which which in the larger culture dressing up being dressed being shaar being put together was part of a larger cultural expression and so while their new fashions that are being shown within the fascist within ebony and within the fascist feature specifically it's also a reflection of something that is happening within the community right so again when you talk about this particular publication the reason that it sticks is because there's a desire and there's already something happening within the larger culture that people can can connect to it within the magazine until those early facetime feature which were you know edited in kind of spearheaded by free tonight who is the home services director so she kinda cover everything from your recipes you travel to the fashion features a really did teach her things like captain swimwear in how the how the dress for certain occasions and so on and so forth and it also was a place where black models got a chance to have sunshine if you will because there just wasn't a space for them in these other publications so one of the reasons we really want us to kind of look at the ebony fascist fair because yes there's this fantastic fashion in as little as lavish and it's luxurious and it is beautiful and all of that but it's connected to this this larger social history that the magazine it's helping to kind of explore innings edited and i also think thought it was a really important how you wrote in the catalog about how the ebony especially instrumental in projecting these images of glamorous and elegant black women that were really yet projected within mainstream cultures have basically saying you know i think he wrote black women could be everybody's glamorous sister white counterparts because in the mainstream culture and the images that were being projected 'em in society that wasn't an image that you austin saw during that time you you didn't see the dapper gentleman he didn't see the glamorous lady so within ebony magazine you not only end not even within the fascist fair column but the covering of some of these w taught ball and there was you know every year for many years there were the feature about the best dressed women in america so the best dress black women so you really gotta see that you know african american women african american men were really out here doing something extravaganza extrordinary that you weren't gonna find that in the pages of bogor harper's bazaar but the beauty beauty of black women the beauty of black men would mean celebrated within the magazine and what the fashion fair the traveling show did was really give people a chance to see that kind of in a dimensional space race so not just look at the picture but see the people inhabit the government right in nineteen fifty eight was the first year that up and he's fashion fair went from being a feature in the magazine to her tour exhibition of fashion fashion can you tell us a little bit about the impetus behind this transition the more i thought about it you know you write something and then you time path is the first installation or the first kind of pilot of the fashion and fair was in nineteen fifty states where john johnson really brought these garments end his models to dealer university as a way to raise money for that university of oregon has a 'em the president's wife the president of that campuses wife and they put on a show they raised my money for the institution but when you purchase a ticket for the show you also get a subscription friction to the magazine so you either got a year subscription to ebony or six months subscription to jet magazine which with another publication of jonathan of the johnson empire media empire so the impetus to take the fashion on the road one it was to get people to see or to allow people see these beautiful garments in person it will wait a fundraiser certain organizations whether that'd be the the links or the alex or what have you in a particular city and then it was also a way to make sure that these subscriptions to the magazines were being you know attached to the fashion show so it's kind of like this whole situation where you have the fashion you had the business of the magazine and then you had the philanthropic arm on the traveling show as well so it it really all work together so so you've got to see what you would see fashion that you would see in the magazine closing in person so fashion editor free tonight oversaw the fashions are traveling show from its beginnings until nineteen sixty three when she passed away and it was after that that the fair came under the direction of the glamorous visionary you niece johnson and johnson's wife and how do you need to transform the fashion fair into this internationally celebrated display of not just fashion but oh coulter fashion and why is this important well on mrs johnson was very instrumental in the founding of the company in the founding of any she gave magazine i mean it's the same she herself was a person who was highly educated but always had an interest in kind of art and culture i think are minor in college was was art she as a child you know she may closed her her her dad so and so forth so she brought with her on an interest in fashion and also kind of keen eye on what what's hot and what we're gonna who wasn't going to be the best and the brightest among these designers 'em ban the thing that unit did or i i never call her units alec color mrs johnson 'cause if i met her i wouldn't call it a first name i does see what what she did an end you know this is part of the history of the show is well is that they did it wasn't like they were going to borrow garments they purchased everything things for the show as she really created a vision of glamour and luxury that took it to the next level and she developed relationships with designers she maintain those relationships to the point where you know by the seventy new mrs johnson was you knew she wasn't coming to just you know look if she always fought things that were just kind of different a little bit of extra becomes her audience expected a bit more they expected flare an end drama so she always purchase things that were kind of the at the far end of of of miners were creating so so she she did a great deal not only you know she carried on the tradition started by frigid tonight but she also just she grew it right she grew the fashioned fair when the fascist they're starting at fifty eight in went to about twenty four cities by the middle of nineteen seventy six they have the divide the show in the kind of two season so the winter in the spring because they had grown to more than a hundred cities in the eighties i think they did a hundred and eighty you know at the height nineteen eighty seven they did like a hundred and eighty three city tour so they she is really kind of this is hard thing she's taken over the editorial vision within the magazine and she's really you know out here making a name for eunice johnson because she wasn't couture buyer as well but also you know really making a statement win this fashioned fair this traveling show so in terms of her power with in that industry a within the fashion industry and really her kind of vision for the fashion fair she really needed it she took it to the next level yeah you mentioned it a little bit earlier but when the fashions fares and mrs johnson most significant legacies can be found in the showcasing and promotion a black models so how significant was fashion fair and changing the way black black women were depicted in the media but maybe also happy sopping south well you know when we were doing research for the show and we went and talked to some of the early fashion sarah models like there were some there is some women who were in that first show so that we spoke to an ebony magazine really was the only game in town for them even though they were 'em you know professionals if they want it to be a plant that wiz where they were gonna be seen ebony jet fan you all of these publications that were put out by the johnson company in terms of the models but they chose they were trying to create a sense of showing the diversity of hughes within the african american community you know they weren't necessarily picking from people who were already connected to the industry so we've also an offer an opportunity for those who were not in the industry to really kind of try their hand at the craft and really practice it you know because they were moving so quickly and also going to so many cities you really had to create create some personality when you were walking's runways and so on and so forth so in terms of what they did for creating space for black models you know they're really at the vanguard because it's not until so the late sixties early seventies and really not you know with any kind of regularity the eighties that you start to see a black models in mainstream publications so publications like ebony in china parts were really the place that blast model got a chance shine and we're gonna hear about one of these models specifically pot cleveland when we get back from eight brief sponsor break hi it's cassidy an april an whenever i'm ready to shift gears from podcast church jim warrior you better bet i'm wearing fab lennox flip on my favorite pair of leopard print leggings and wallah transformation complete that isn't only for the gym they create clothing that's me to inspire physical activity in any type of setting moreover athletics aims to create finance fashionable workout clothing at an exceptional price points thermometer is living your passion everyday right now dress listeners can receive to leggings for only twenty four dollars when you sign up for the vip membership that is normally ninety nine dollars value you should check out my favorite leggings which are the me up pocket leggings which have pockets for your phone get them while they're in stock as designs change monthly all you have to do is go to fab lennox dot com forward slash dressed to take advantage of this deal now that sublet x dot com for slash stress to get to leggings for only twenty four dollars there is no commitment to purchase monthly and free shipping on all orders over forty nine dollars also make sure you enter email address when you take the style quiz as you'll receive exclusive discounts and the inside scoop about new collections that have not yet been released again got a fat let ics dot com forward slash traffic terms and conditions do apply welcome back dress listeners so one cleveland's very first modeling jobs where the traveling fashion fair she was just sixteen years old when she joined the tour and that was in nineteen sixty six and i i'm currently reading her memoir walking with amuses which is wonderful i highly suggest are listeners check it out and she really recalls excitement of the fashion fair experience on this time when she met muhammad ali lots exciting things and experiences happening for this young woman and but she also talks about the fear that was involved when she in the tour and went to be american south and at this time this is the sixties and it's a place deeply entrenched racism at something that's most recently captured in the oscar winning film green book so not only were these models groundbreaking in their display of fashion they and the the credit they traveled with were incredibly brave and quite resilient in the face of much adversity and even dangerous she writes about this running in what the kkk france so can you speak a little bit more into the early road blocks of the show mrs johnson and it's participants initially encountered and were able to overcome so that cleveland of course you know giant was in the fashion industry she's spoken pretty plainly about on some of the encounters that they had in the south as they traveled and she's traveling much later than some of those those earlier you're model sanded when they were traveling this out they traveled in a greyhound bus so accustomed bus everybody on the bus the clothes on the bus they go you know they're traveling through the south end particularly peculiarly in the early sixties you know during the time of the freedom rides it was there could have been some confusion between their mission and the mission of those activists were so brave but some of the models also speak about about not being able to answer the front door to order food 'em they also traveled with a models who were fair enough the past as sometimes we go into these stablishment and do what they need to do for the rest of the crew so again while were talking about the fascist there in in bringing fashion and really equalizing ability in see andy ability to experience tour were also moda and so on and so forth a front end in person often they were going to places that had not yet been desegregated and in the shows if there were folks who were not who were black and white you know they had to be separated so and it's so far so it's existing with in the context of what's happening in the the rest of the united states so wasn't always easy to make you make your way down south to show these fashion but in many instances that's where the you know they have the grandest audiences or the the biggest outpouring of support because it was really an opportunity to see something in places that were outright style to african american right and you're right also about mr and mrs johnson's initial struggles with even gaining access to oh couture fashion in europe during this period i mean oko cheer at this time is you know is really exclusive and exclusionary to african american clients and mrs johnson shows up there and really just breaks down all these barriers and becomes really incredibly important crutcher client can you talk about how she was able to do that a little bit we know that the in mr john says autobiography there definitely is a section where he discusses a trying to get access to some of these fashion houses and they're not just off they're not all in europe some in the united states as well an end being denied and a really threatening having to threatening legal action against some of these companies if they are not granted access so while there are within the dominant culture there are prejudices and biases against african americans there those exist within the fashion industry where people were not necessarily sara lee taking them seriously as buyers right core they to come in right these checks in at macy's you know ultimately grand financial statement when that's not necessarily how people were encountering african american and so a lot of what they did in terms of breaking down those barriers was with their checkbooks that's what mrs johnson did right she's coming to see her work and she's gonna buy most of europe collection you're gonna take her very seriously and i think that into what happened in developing these relationships is that when you're gonna spend that she was spending so much money that she demanded at a level of respect that a happy build but because it would expect it as as she continued to calm year after year then she could do what she wanted ultimately within these circle right and she herself as you mentioned earlier was really important oh catcher clinton herself she wore a culture fashion as well and she's incredibly fashionable glamorous woman so i don't think it would take much convincing and i know you said by you know as as the fashion show progressive progressive the relationship that she bills with these designers is really really interesting and we'll talk a little bit about that in a minute but i wanna talk about the show itself because you've you've mentioned it a little bit and and and how by the mid seventies show is traveling a hundred eighty venues i mean this has really turned into this extravaganza is incredibly exciting and you know event to look forward to so if i wasn't audience member of the audience member during this period what would you have expected to see from a typical how okay so at the height of the show they had about between a hundred and fifty two hundred eighty access so ultimately that means that you're singing that many garment within the span of the show amish show would be between an hour and a half to two hours there would be a musical interlude an you would see it broken into the category of the of the type of fashion right so day where swimwear the evening where sonus so for later in the show these kind of a interpreted or acted out skits became very popular a men and women in maxine ensemble if you will is also very popular witham thumb audiences of course it ended with the bridal a scene so it kind of took a while to get through the show and you had the hat entertainment value to it there was a moderator or commentator who described the fashion described the scene so it really it was it was in entertainment in bed with fashion if you will right and it's important not to i felt like these comments that were first how they were literally purchase she display in the magazine added a fashion show for this performance but they only absolutely it was a performance many of the models had other talent you know they song and dance roller skate it whatever they brought with them they also brought to the display of the fashion you know there are folks who would talk about a model who could turn as if she were on a you know a rotating pedestal or something like that so there was there there is a lot of weighing in on going on at these shows that had to do with the garment but also has to do with the ways in which the models inhabited and how they performed at you just didn't walk in show what you had oh my you know you had to make it come alive for the audience how wonderful and as mentioned the fashions on display or not just any off the rack fashion but oh coach here i mean we're talking about the crandall a criminal fashion and he talked about she often went for the muller auburn guard more you know expressive pieces at the designers offered so these are not inexpensive by any means and you're coal curator of the museum exhibition virginia heavens called mrs johnson a curator because of the thought and care that went into the selection selection of each and every garment for the show can you tell us a little bit about how she picked the fashions to be displayed on what she was looking for well 'em she wasn't looking thing that popped right so she was looking for things that spoke look on luxury an ex then when you see no you don't have to try to figure it out there with a lot of color there were a lot tougher there is a lot of sequence a lot of leather so things that really boat to kind of the the actual value of the government because these what they're supposed to be aspiration all right that's the thing they choose you hope to be able to a where one day for you might not you you might wonder how who aware of that ad where would i wear that because there was also a again speaking to the fantasy of fashion and not just the utilitarian nature of wearing something that's very smart although there was you know the complete look that we display within the exhibition where you you had the hair was done the makeup was ripe accessories were on point point the garment with great the shoes everything was just so but there was also a lot of fantasy with in the show so many things that were chosen a like a lot of you know high fashion wasn't necessarily you know wearable it was really about dealing with the ideas in the design in the fantasy of of of what the designer was trying to bring polite and she really wanted her audience the enter that world so a lot of what you saw on the fashioned fair stage was it was sharp and it was smart and so on but there was also things that were just kind of crazy in out there as well she was trying to create something for the audience is enjoy but also for them to understand what was going on within fashion at a particular time and he talked a little bit about mrs johnson's relationship to these you know precision crutcher designers are high fashion designers and many of him like a manual on garro for instance she really supportive from the beginning of their careers she's incredibly important client to the industry can you talk a little bit about this relationship there is a wonderful photograph in the catalog of her and he found their own for instance right so you solar on bill blass emmanuel and garro the the thing about putting the show together was that we had access to thousands of government that were purchased over several decades for the emmy fashioned fair if some of these designers she pretty much had a full catalog so garro from the late sixties all the way until the end of the run of ebony fashioned fair so she each seller on same thing there were pieces was in that collection that you can't really find anywhere because she she just took all of it m a n patrick kelly tally in things that were made specifically for the ebony fashion fair because of the relationship she had with the designers 'em i think it was really again that becomes because she wasn't around when we were doing the show to talk to us about that we did have access to her assistant producer who did it by the end of her life with doing most of the vying for the show but it's really in kind of the physical wrecker on the garment where do you see those relationships you know you could see that more now in terms of who is who is representing in that collection in what was representing them that collection and there was something they missing that you would think would be in that collection and so you kind of you know there were questions that that developed over the period of kind of interacting with windows garment but definitely you saw it you know bill blass you sound the ron emanuel in garro just some phenomenal phenomenal garment which in the span of her collecting history so she had her coat she had her own collection to so we had the you have the fashion collection but then that was what she herself purchase which we didn't get into but you know there was a a great recor within her own government archive as well and you mentioned patrick kelly she was of course in a valuable mature clammed patron but she really wasn't important supporter black fashion designers from the very beginning can you tell us about some of these designers that featured an exhibition one in particular that stand well there couple 'em there's no such barkley who you know is you may or may not have heard his name before there is patrick kelly somebody who is iconic being michael who made a very wonderful evening gown era dean designers that she worked without all the time and then there's those history early on which we don't really cover because there's not a lot of documentation where when the fashion fair we're going a certain cities in the early days they would find out who the designer who is the same stress or the taylor in that town who is doing really great work and they would feature it along with all this other fantastic fashion that they were playing as well but black designers actually spent in they're designed to mrs johnson at the johnson publishing building an issue like if she would include it in the show so if you are someone who didn't have that you know high name recognition is mrs johnson was a fan of your work your designs could be in the same show as a eastbound the raw 'em so it really was both the high end and then is kind of graphic design work that or grassroots work that was going on as well too i mean she is just an incredibly important patron it sounds like from this period for over fifty years years of that any fashion fair so it's really incredible hi it's april and cassidy as you might already know we are big fans of athletics kate hudson fashion focused active are brand end athletics let it isn't only for the gym dna cast i went on dancing with my friends and i threw a slushy eighty stress about black sports bra and the platform congress and i felt cute and company all night long yes it whether it's running errands or to yoga fabulous max has a versatile tell options for your day today and right now listeners can receive to leggings for only twenty four dollars when you sign up for the vip membership this is normally ninety nine dollars value and be sure to check out my favorite leggings which are the media pocket it leggings which have pockets breer phone so get them while they're in stock as designs change monthly all you have to do is go to fab lead x dot com forward slash stress to take advantage of this deal now that fab lennox dot com forward slash dress to get to leggings only twenty four dollars there is no commitment to purchase monthly and free shipping on all orders over forty nine dollars also make sure you enter your email address when you take the style quiz as you'll receive exclusive discounts on the inside scoop about new collections that have not been released yet again gotta fab lennox dot com forward slash traffic terms and conditions do apply has ten now choi how did you and virginia go about picking the fashions do we featured in you're exhibition i mean you just referenced this archive that have i think thousands of pieces in it how could you even begin to choose what to include well i think condition was a great separate or of the the women from the girls why right so 'em we we were looking for things that wouldn't require a grand amount of conservation although we did have a couple of pieces that were key that 'em they need it's a work because as i mentioned they were traveling into like a hundred and fifty hundred and sixty city so be saying had been worn many times in often hack the house a modification just so people could get the models could get in and out of them quickly and then get back on stage that magazine itself was very helpful the programs from the ebony fashioned fair were very helpful you know those things what what are the recurring thing color was the probably the most recurrent theme in any fashion fair a title or the the scene for particular season we were looking for those designers designers that you know did have a significant death within that collection of one of my favorite sections of the expedition really had to do with that complete look that put together woman where the the jewelry that accessories all of that was we we want it to make a statement about that as well we want it to make a statement about the international nature of the fashion that was being displayed right and those those key pieces that we knew so there's a lot of garro there's a number of some of the pieces in the show that over tour comes up over and over again within the the fashion fair history there was also a in the early eighties there would be edition of the plus size model so we were trying to do a couple of different things right look at the arc of the show itself historically but then also look at the ways in which these garnett spoke to the things that were important to mrs johnson right so there's one section just about kind of luxury n n b firmer an end sequins as i mentioned 'em but also have some pieces in it that you're not gonna see anywhere else because she she bought it so and i've heard stories i can't i don't know if i could confirmed it that you know some of the house's knew that she had teases and they have their own color you know they have their own kind of archives and they come they came to see if they could a gay back or archive you know what i'm saying yeah and i just think in terms of what she was able to do which is creating a fashion fantasy for people who often who at one point were locked out because of raise an in many ways you know most of us are are just not going to these houses to buy anything you know other were not which is going to look 'em so or or young people who maybe had an interest in design an ain't got a chance to see these things on on stage for the first time in their real democratization happening on the ebony fashion fair stage and i also think the ability to make these very beautiful things you know kind of milk them for everything there were right in terms of providing a place for black models and not just women that have a platform to show their so in terms of all the behind the scenes people who got a chance to you know prepare these garment prepare the the men and women for the stage is both a fashion extravaganza but it's just a really interesting castle for thinking about history virginia at is the fashion expert i had an interest in what this magazine what that company did in terms of really elevating african americans to see themselves in ways that they were not being projected at the time that the magazine start it and then to create this platform for all this you know ultimately black excellent and those garment became an extension of that and i just think if if it's fascinating is phenomenal it still gives me chills till the day to think that you know we did that show it was it was really also i mean incredibly groundbreaking show 'em in in one that celebrates as you just said this and credibly important legacy carried on on by mr and mrs johnson end john johnson died in two thousand five at the age of eighty seven mrs johnson died in two thousand ten at the age of ninety three in that was actually just one year after the very last fashion fair ended its run so after traveling for fifty fifty years so why do you think the fashioned fair ended and can you speak a little bit endurance of mr mss johnson's legacy in its wake sure i think the fascist their end it for a couple reasons one put it on a show of that magnitude is incredibly expensive publishing houses for the last several you know last couple of decades have been struggling in i i'm not sure that that was remained main priority of johnson publishing company i can't say that but that's really for them to speak to but it was a really expensive venture you know the nature of fashion also change whereas mr mrs johnson was able to developed these relationships where certain houses and and you know on the strength of her relationship by these things in many of those how the then became part of larger conglomerate 'em so purchasing in the ways in which they had earlier just wasn't as easy as it had been right and also mr mrs johnson really was the spearheading she end declining health that someone is so forth so i think there are multiple reasons the fair end it some of them have to do cost some of them have to do with the changing nature of the fashion industry and then some of them have to do without the decline of the magazine me quite frankly those are my my hypotheses you will end despite the fashion fair not during taken you speak about mr and mrs johnson's legacy today and today's fashion industry but also today an american culture will see i don't think many people know about you know johnson in terms of her contribution to the fashion industry as should write the fashion fair because it was is put on by ebony magazine in primarily seen in by african american is not as well known now i will say that folks who were in the know and love fashion always knew about the fascist fair and go regardless of what color they were but these were disciplined and a show bad primarily support it you know black organizations and it's only so far so they're still those divisions within our society that keep us i'm being as knowledgeable about people of other cultures and race that we shouldn't be so unfortunately i feel like it's not as well known as i would hope it would be but we're in a culture a the african american culture and the the way in have on the johnson legacy i mean it is kind of hard to overstate it because they created a blueprint ultimately for how to tap into under served audiences so what mr johnson did you know witness the court and in backing of mrs units jonathan i have voice see an opportunity to build something really you know quite spectacular and it was like i said we meet round digesting ebony which jet in tandem q is ebony junior it would have any africa for short while ebony south africa ebony man you know they really kind of created a ten play a platform for celebrating the best and black culture sir and did so in in really through these kind of visual a mess but you know the picture this black celebrities so and so forth so they what they gave to american culture and really what they reflective of african american life is really 'em without parallel and so i think despite a lot of the changes that are happening even without the company eight right now you you can't really overstate the importance of ebony magazine northey importance of the ebony fashioned fair right because they provide an opportunity for people who had been maligned and so it'll treat it represented the see when they knew about themselves and then also seeing him so beyond what they thought they could accomplish so that is fantastic yeah charlie as and try this is a real pleasure thank you so much for being here today and sharing the joy that is mrs johnson's attorney fashion fair with us today well thanks for listening it talk about it again thank you for being here the importance of johnson's life and work come truly not be overstated enough mister johnson was awarded the presidential medal of freedom in nineteen ninety six and when he died at the age of eighty seven in two thousand five two thousand people people attended his funeral costs in the reverend jesse jackson set of johnson that quote he gave us a first mirror to see ourselves as people have dignity people with intelligence and beauty put april as we know it said time and again on the show but every great man license even greater woman i mean of course i'm joking but not really i mean you niece was forced to be reckoned with the woman who not only gates ebony magazine its name like millions of black women around the world glamorous operational vision of and so the affirmed indeed that black was is and always will be beautiful that does it for us today dress blisters may you consider the endurance the legacy of any fashion their next time you get trapped remember to tune in this thursday for the latest edition of fashion history mystery where we address questions from you art listers we love hearing from you so if you would like to email us please do so trust at i heart media dot com you could also direct message us on instagram at dressed underscore podcast where you will find images accompany each week's episode stress underscore podcast is also are twitter handle and you can follow us on facebook at dress podcast without the underscore for additional ratings each week's episodes checkout are show notes at just podcast dot com and don't forget about are much start at t public dot com forward slash stress that he eats public dot com for slash dressed as always special thanks to our producers tcp holly fry and everyone else if i heart radio makes this show possible each and every week catchy soon trust the history of fashion as a production of i heart radio for more podcasts and i heart radio this is the iheart radio app apple podcasts or wherever else you listen to your favorite shows i'm dana schwartz and i'm the host new blood new history podcast from i heart radio and aaron main focuses

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