Goodwill Fashion Expert—Bjorn Nasett

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Fashion Inspires at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted by Jamie Klinger-Krebs on Mar 5, 2015 11:48:00 AM
Eunice Johnson

Eunice Walker Johnson, director
and producer of Ebony Fashion Fair

I was thrilled when I heard the Milwaukee Art Museum was hosting an exhibit honoring the contributions of Ebony Fashion Fair brought not only to the world of design, but to the general public as well! Being able to see couture garments up close and personal is a rare treat for any fashion lover, and it’s a terrific learning experience in the art of fashion design for the uninitiated. The following is a press release detailing the exhibit, and the photographs are a representation of what the show has in store for the viewer. Thanks to the Milwaukee Art Museum for giving us this springtime gift, just when we need it most!

The Milwaukee Art Museum brings haute couture to the city in Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair. Open now through May 3, it is a story of vision, innovation and power told through the prism of iconic fashion from Oscar de la Renta, Givenchy, Valentino, Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint-Laurent, Patrick Kelly and Emanuel Ungaro, among others.

Organized by the Chicago History Museum in cooperation with Johnson Publishing Company, Inspiring Beauty provides a multisensory retrospective on the fifty-year history of the charity fashion spectacle that redefined the concepts of beauty, style and empowerment for African Americans through the Ebony Fashion Fair. Over one hundred objects, including ensembles and accessories, as well as archival photographs and video, help to re-create the one-of-a-kind experience and explore the history of the traveling fashion show and its director and producer, Eunice Walker Johnson. The exhibition is enhanced by the addition of Ebony Fashion Fair garments from the collection at Mount Mary University.

Angelo Marani (Italian) Pierre Balmain (French) Jean-Louis Scherrer (French)

Angelo Marani (Italian) -
Cocktail Ensemble, fall/
winter 2005-2006. Fox,
rabbit, mink, synthetic lace
and ribbon, leather, nylon/
viscose/cotton blend denim
© International Art & Artists

Pierre Balmain (French) -

Cocktail Dress and Stole, fall/
winter 1988-1989. Silk chiffon
© International Art & Artists

Jean-Louis Scherrer (French) -

Cocktail Ensemble, fall/
winter 2000-2001. Fox, goat,
mink, Persian lamb, leather
© International Art & Artists

“The Museum is thrilled to showcase its debut fashion exhibition and partner with International Arts & Artists to feature Inspiring Beauty,” said Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This is a stunning exhibition that will be dramatically installed to give the visitor a true runway experience.”

Emanuel Ungaro (French) - Bridal Gown Emanuel Ungaro (French) - Evening Dress

Emanuel Ungaro (French) -
Bridal Gown, fall/winter
1996-1997. Cotton/synthetic
blend lace, embroidered
silk, plastic ‘pearl’ beads and
sequins, glass beads
© International Art & Artists

Emanuel Ungaro (French) -

Evening Dress, fall/winter
1987-1988 Silk satin and
© International Art & Artists

Inspiring Beauty is presented in three sections that explore the three major themes of the exhibition. The first section of the exhibition, Vision, explores Eunice Johnson’s role as the creative force behind the Ebony Fashion Fair. It features costumes that reflect power, affluence and influence, expressing some of the traveling show’s recurring aesthetic ideas.

The second section of the exhibition, Innovation, looks at the boldness and experimentation of Johnson Publishing Company. Garments in this section reflect the full breadth of fashion fantasy that the traveling show brought audiences while the film highlights the historic significance of Johnson company publications.

Ted Lapidus (French) Valentino (Italian) Givenchy (French) by Alexander McQueen

Ted Lapidus (French) -
Cocktail dress (white),
fall/winter 2000–01.
Hand-painted silk faille,
glass beads, plastic sequins,
leather, cotton embroidery
Lent by Johnson, LLC, Chicago
History Museum, Johnson

Valentino (Italian) -

Evening ensemble, fall/winter
1974–75 Silk chiffon, ostrich
Lent by Johnson Publishing
Company, LLC Chicago History
Museum, Johnson Publishing

Givenchy (French) -

by Alexander McQueen
Evening Ensemble, fall/winter
1997-1998 Synthetic raffia
mounted on silk gauze
© International Art & Artists

The final section, Power, features Inspiring Beauty’s most elaborate, luxurious and dramatic ensembles. Costumes by Valentino, Bob Mackie, Henry Jackson and Alexander McQueen reflect the glamour and showmanship that created the dynamic visual experience that audiences expected.

Eunice Johnson consults with Yves Saint Laurent

Eunice Johnson consults
with Yves Saint Laurent.

“At the heart of this dynamic exhibition are the stunning gowns, feathered coats, and statement designs seen in the seventy-plus ensembles by designers including Valentino, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Bob Mackie, Missoni, Patrick Kelly, Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, and more, all selected from a collection of thousands that Mrs. Johnson amassed in five decades,” said Keegan.

To celebrate Milwaukee’s local connection to the Ebony Fashion Fair, a section of the exhibition will include thirteen designer garments from Mount Mary University’s signature Ebony Fashion Fair collection, part of the its 10,000-piece Historic Costume Collection. Mount Mary’s selections will feature garments by Koos Van Den Akker, Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler, and Anna Sui, among others.

The Ebony Fashion Fair circuit included 170 stops each year, including Milwaukee. In addition to appearing at the now-defunct Garfield Theater on the city’s north side, Mount Mary University presented the Ebony Fashion Fair to sold-out audiences in its Kostka Theater on several occasions.

This one of a kind fashion exhibition will be on view until May 3, 2015.

Anna Sui Roberto Cavalli Vivienne Westwood

Anna Sui

Roberto Cavalli

Vivienne Westwood

Click here for a chance to win two FREE tickets (donated by Bjorn) to the Milwaukee Art Museum's "Inspiring Beauty - 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair" exhibit!

Topics: Goodwill, Ebony Fashion Fair, Milwaukee Art Museum, Bjorn Nasett, Fashion