By  on May 26, 2010

CHICAGO — The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s annual student fashion show and fund-raiser “The Walk” packed an extra dose of glamour, depth and drama this year. It attracted some of the city’s top fashion figures, remembered Ebony Fashion Fair founder Eunice W. Johnson and honored New York-based designer Gary Graham with its 2010 Legend of Fashion Award.

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“Everything I do now, I learned here,” said Graham, who graduated from the school in 1992, was named a finalist in the 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and opened his own store in TriBeCa.

Recounting how he once called SAIC’s female-dominated fashion department “the fascist matriarchy,” Graham said his professors provided unforgettable experiences that continue to shape his work, which is known for its washing and dying processes.

The crowd of 400 — decked in everything from bright orange leggings and nose rings to chic cocktail dresses and Louboutin stilettos — also recognized the trailblazing efforts of Johnson with a video tribute presented by her daughter Linda Johnson Rice, chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing Co.

Noting that her mother broke down fashion barriers for African-Americans, Rice showed gowns from Valentino and Bob Mackie as part of the Ebony Fashion Fair Collection and awarded senior Luis Antonio Rodriguez $25,000 from the Eunice W. Johnson Fellowship to launch his own fashion line upon graduation.

At dinner after the student fashion show, which was held in the institute’s Modern Wing, guests included former White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers, in an Alexander McQueen zip-front print dress and Jimmy Choo heels. Rogers said she came to support her friend Rice and remember Johnson, whom she called a fashion force. “She always said beauty comes from within,” Rogers recalled, and to “use what you have.”

The evening also drew previous Legend winners William Ivey Long and Maria Pinto, and local retailer Ikram Goldman, one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion resources, who is thought to be a contender for the school’s 2011 Legend honor.

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