No fashion series would be complete without a sculpture inspired by Eunice Johnson and Ebony Fashion Fair. The contributions that Eunice made to the world of fashion, and African American women, are legendary. A woman of vision, Eunice brought high fashion to communities across the nation while raising millions of dollars for various charities. Her story inspired me to create Esther. The beauty and stance of this 26” sculpture evokes strength and self-assuredness, traits which reflect Eunice’s unique spirit. This sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Eunice Johnson. A truly remarkable woman whose legacy lives on.
Jade is an exciting addition to my modern fashion sculpture collection. I wanted to sculpt a piece that was both modern and diverse. Jade, a gorgeous Asian woman is sensuous, captivating and down-right delectable. She is featured in a fitted deep V-neckline dress and faux fur stole. Her tantalizing pose highlights her body hugging dress which showcases her alluring figure. Her ankle-wrapped gladiator sandals add to the piece’s sensuousness. Jade’s come-hither expression is sultry and pulls you in. It makes you to want to know what she’s thinking. This cast bronze sculpture is a limited edition of 25 pieces. The sculpture measures 26”ht x 10”wd x 11”lg and is mounted on marble.
The journey to Fashion Week 2017 with Nolcha Shows has been an amazing one. Once making the decision to participate in this awesome event, I immediately began following Nolcha and the immensely talented designers featured at their shows. Wren and Roch in particular caught my eye with their elegant leather bags and accessories. Their unique designs which feature spikes and finger grips on clutches are both beautiful and unexpected. Beyond this it is their very impressive mission and the meaning attached to their collection which makes them so special. In an effort to raise awareness for sexual assault, Wren and Roch partners with various organizations which raise funds, educate, assist and empower those who have been impacted by sexual assault. Recently, they have launched a “Carry Your Courage” campaign to help lift the stigma of guilt and shame surrounding rape and abuse. As a licensed therapist, this platform resonated with me immediately. Almost on a daily basis I meet with people who have been hurt by sexual assault. I knew I wanted to do anything I could do to help support and expand their mission.
One morning, Teri, my very talented business advisor and confidant woke up with the most amazing idea! What if a couple of my sculptures included some of their pieces? I loved the idea and honestly we believe that it was divinely inspired. We reached out to Laura and Karen to see if they might be interested in collaborating with us, they were honored. Their first question was, “what do you need from us”? The conversation continued as we worked together to select the bag and accessories which would be featured. Coincidently or maybe not, the color of bag chosen matched the bronze patina which I had already selected. Two days later, a sample bag and cuff arrived so that I would have something to work from. Last week, I finished their BEST FRIEND- Ray of Moonlight purse as well as Tan Hide and Seeing Spots cuffs. Our new friends were pleased. Delilah will be featured carrying Ray of Moonlight and wearing their Tan Hide cuff. Jade will be wearing their “Seeing Spots” cuff. We are very proud to assist Wren and Roch in promoting their very special mission.
To learn more about Wren and Roch, visit https://www.wrenandroch.com/.
No weekend adventure would be complete without a trip to a foundry located in downtown Philadelphia (time to have molds made of the Nolcha Four)! I left my home in Virginia around 7:30AM after carefully strapping my precious cargo (sculptures) into my Nissan Rogue with a complicated intertwining of bungie cords and wooden shims. Keeping these creations secure for the long trip was paramount. Normally, my husband accompanies me on one of these adventures, but he had other business to attend to. Thankfully, my dear sister-in-law Marla volunteered to make the pilgrimage with me. As we traveled north, I found myself incessantly checking my rearview mirror not for law enforcement, but for the condition of my precious cargo. The further north we went the bumpier the roads became. Yes, we have an infrastructure problem in this country! Poor Delilah began to bounce like a preteen on a trampoline while Marla chanted “don’t look back, don’t look back”! I began practicing all the deep breathing techniques that I have been teaching my clients for years in order to maintain my composure.
After hours of bumper to bumper traffic, we arrived at our destination. Luckily, I have worked in similar urban neighborhoods of Richmond, Virginia, so Philly was not a complete shock. In the midst of what appears to be a war zone, complete with plastic covered windows and smashed up cars lining the streets, stands a 100-year-old three-story building, which in days gone by, was a fabric manufacturing plant. This is the new home to Stratton Sculpture Studios whose owners are in the process of renovating this “historical site”. I chose Stratton because they came highly recommended by an artist friend of mine and are noted for their meticulous work. Julia and Shane Stratton are classically trained artists with 40 years of experience between them. Notably, Julia is a patinist which means she is an artist who specializes in the patination (coloration) of metal. I want to work with the best artist I could find in order to bring my fashion line to life. Meeting with Julia and Shane was an absolute pleasure. They were extremely kind, helpful, and generous. When I originally sent them photos of the piece “Carry Your Courage” (formerly named “Catwalk”) Delilah was empty handed, not carrying anything! Now, here I was showing up with a sculpted Wren and Roch purse which was not accounted for in their original quote. I shared Wren and Roch’s mission to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault. I inquired about the additional cost and was happily stunned when they said “no charge, no problem”. Just goes to show that when you support good causes, good things happen! I am happy to report that all four figures made it to Philly no worse for the wear, and will be making their way to California in about three weeks for casting.
I have never been to an Ebony Fashion Fair, so having the opportunity to attend the Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of EBONY Fashion Fair exhibit at The George Washington University Textile Museum was the next best thing. Last year, I spent hundreds of hours researching Eunice Johnson and Ebony Fashion Fair for my sculpture “Esther”. Reading about Ebony Fashion Fair is one thing, but to see these beautiful creations by some of the top fashion designers in the world in person was nothing short of breathtaking! Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Patou, Alexander McQueen, and the list goes on. Many of the haute couture pieces featured were one of a kind designs purchased by Mrs. Johnson for Ebony Fashion Fair. For over fifty years Ebony Fashion Fair was a traveling fashion extravaganza that toured the country bringing high end fashion to African American women everywhere. Fashion Fair was not about selling clothes, but rather was about exposing African American audiences to the world of high fashion. It was intentionally replete with images of beautiful successful, well-heeled African American women and served to elevate in the minds of its viewers what was possible. These theatrical shows were considered the event of the year in communities throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
The first part of the evening event included a guided tour of the collection by the curator of the collection, Ms. Camille Brewer. Ms. Brewer did an outstanding job of telling the story of Ebony Fashion’s beginnings and provided much antidotal information about Mrs. Johnson and Johnson Publishing Company.
The second part of the evening was even more interesting as it featured a lecture by Shayla Simpson, Ebony Model and Fashion Fair commentator. Ms. Simpson gave poignant insight into the world of fashion and the pivotal part that Ebony played. Starting initially as a model, then commentator, Ms. Simpson eventually became a buyer under Mrs. Johnson’s tutelage. Listening to Ms. Simpson speak was utterly fascinating. She eloquently weaved a story that pulled you in and kept you there! She talked about her buying trips to Paris with Mrs. Johnson. Initially, being a rookie, her job was to cover the lesser known shows and report back to Mrs. Johnson what she should buy. After approximately two years of making recommendations and Mrs. Johnson never purchasing a thing she picked out, she was utterly bewildered. Finally, she asked about it and was told that this was a part of her being groomed for the big shows. Subsequently, she went on to attend all the major shows in Paris, Milan, London, and New York and was a major buyer for Ebony Fashion Fair.
This experience provided me with an even greater appreciation of not only Ebony Fashion Fair, but of the Fashion Industry as a whole.
I have never met Eunice Johnson, but honestly wish I could have. Eunice was, bar none one of the most influential women of the 21 century. She was an entrepreneurial visionary whose drive and ambition changed the fashion industry for African American women everywhere. Her contributions are legendary. Volumes have been written about how she brought high fashion to communities across the nation by launching Ebony Fashion Fair, while simultaneously raising millions of dollars for various charities. This is in addition to creating Fashion Fair make up, and founding Ebony and Jet magazine. Eunice used fashion to break down cultural barriers and raise expectations of what was possible. Everything she did, she did with world class style, glamour and panache.
Aside from her huge contribution to the world of fashion, what interests me most about Eunice, is Eunice herself. I do not have to have known her to know that she was blessed with the unique ability to motivate, empower and impart a sense of hopefulness in others. She must have been hugely optimistic, believing in herself and others and in her sense of mission. She was able to build relationships with unlikely partners and find creative ways in which to accomplish her goals. She was a brilliant woman who viewed obstacles as opportunities. One antidotal story tells of her collecting press releases from around the country referencing specific designers in the Ebony Fashion Fair. She used this information to help persuade these designers of the benefit that could be had by partnering with her.
It is a combination of all these traits that inspired me to create Esther. It is my hope that the beauty and stance of this piece evoke a feeling of the strength and self-assurance, traits which Eunice possessed in abundance. This sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Eunice Johnson. A truly remarkable woman, whose legacy lives on.