EBONY’S FASHION LEGACY: Johnson Publishing Co. will auction off over 700 designer gowns and accessories from its Ebony Fashion Fair archives on Oct. 22 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago. The vintage dresses are part of a collection acquired over a 50-year span by the late Eunice Johnson, who founded the Ebony Fashion Fair in 1958 as a traveling fashion show that eventually raised $55 million for black charities before it ended its run in 2007. The dresses for sale include designs from Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, Pauline Trigère and Bob Mackie, among many others.

“It’s unbelievable what Eunice Johnson was able to collect in her lifetime,” said Desirée Rogers, chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing. “This auction will allow people to buy a little piece of history — and many of these dresses are back in fashion now.”

This story first appeared in the October 11, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Last year, Johnson Publishing — which owns Ebony and Jet, as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics — sold its historic headquarters building in the Chicago Loop, which housed the Ebony Fashion Fair dress archives. The auction will help clear out the inventory in advance of the company’s move to a new headquarters in the spring. Another 7,000 less significant items are available in a tag sale through Oct. 21, both online and at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. The company will retain about 3,400 pieces for their permanent archive.

A portion of proceeds from the sale will be donated to Johnson College Prep, a Chicago charter school named for Eunice and John H. Johnson, who founded Johnson Publishing.

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