Ebony Fashion Fair Collection Brings Competitive Bidding
Important fashion collectors and fans of the Ebony Fashion Fair traveled to Chicago and the Leslie Hindman Auctioneers Auction House during a summer weekend in June for the opportunity to own a piece of fashion history.
Storied designers such as Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Lacroix, Emanuel Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Blass, Paco Rabanne, and Valentino comprised the majority of the auction. More eccentric designers – Issey Miyake, Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler to name a few – also added to the extensive nature of the collection.
Bids escalated quickly as lots began to sell well above their conservative estimates, proving that though many of these garments spent years in storage, they were still coveted by many bidders. Leslie Hindman employees fielded numerous calls and bids as items like a Nina Ricci Red Corded lace dress and an Issey Miyake inflatable jumpsuit garnered significant attention.
A day before the auction, Chicago resident Maxine Scott came to see the clothing she had worked with over thirty years before. A part of Ebony’s wardrobe team from 1980-1988, she dressed models for the runway and fast. “Just by glancing I could tell what was right and what was off,” she said. She walked through the preview racks with the look of nostalgia as she commented, “it was the best job I ever had.”
Director of the Couture department, Anne Forman and assistant, Mary Shearson, worked for months cataloging and completing condition reports for the over 500 lots. At times exhausting, it was the late Eunice Johnson’s fresh outlook that kept them going. “Eunice Johnson was so fashion forward in her thinking,” Shearson said. “She brilliantly curated the Ebony shows for sixty years.”
Under Johnson’s direction, Ebony Magazine became a historical outlet for black audiences. She also created a space to showcase American and Europe’s finest fashions. The magazine’s “fashion fair” feature ultimately became the “Ebony Fashion Fair,” an event that has raised over $55 million for charity since 1958.
From Bob Mackie’s sequined dressed to Christian Dior’s dramatic evening gowns, the fashion fair certainly lived up to its name. In the end, however, it was Yves Saint Laurent’s genius that triumphed at auction – a black sequin lace couture evening gown realized $13,750 while a Domino coat in yellow faille with a black velvet dress from his 1983 haute-couture collection sold for $17,500.
A portion of the auction proceeds went to Johnson College Prep, a public, 4-year charter high school located in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. Treasures from the Ebony Fashion Fair Collection, the third installment of Ebony auctions produced by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, proved not only to showcase the extensive taste of the collection while raising money for a good cause, but give collectors and fans the chance to own the “best of the best” of the Ebony Fashion Fair.