Monday, September 07, 2009

7079: Economy Not Fair.

From The Miami Herald…

Ebony Fashion Fair victim of economy

By Rod Hagwood

It’s runway interruptus.

The Ebony Fashion Fair—a catwalk show that traveled across the country, Canada and the Bahamas bringing designer fashion from around the world to predominantly black audiences—has put its fall 2009 schedule on hiatus.

The reason? The economy.

Just a year after celebrating its 50th anniversary, the annual show featuring black models has been canceled by its producer, Johnson Publishing Company, which also publishes Ebony and Jet magazines. The fund-raising show made stops in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In a statement, chairwoman and CEO Linda Johnson Rice said: “In light of the overall economic challenges that are affecting many, including our potential corporate sponsors, we have arrived at a most difficult decision to cancel Ebony Fashion Fair’s fall 2009 season. In the coming months, we will develop a new business model to ensure that the show is a mutually beneficial endeavor.”

The traveling style show—one bus filled with 10 female models, two male models, assorted dressers and more than 200 outfits—showcases the couture of up to 80-something designers from around the world in a slick production of choreographed catwalk capers: The female models “worked” their colorful coats and fur-trimmed wraps like whirling dervishes while male models pumped their pectorals for an appreciative—and vocal—audience. It was all G-rated flirtatiousness.

The fair was “a great social outing where you can get dressed up and experience fashion in South Florida,” says Beth Williams, a healthcare professional and part of the Gamma Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Miami. “It has become a historical part of our social community.”

Traditionally, at every stop on the year-long trek was a local fundraiser for civic organizations and charities. Since 1958, the Ebony Fashion Fair show has donated more than $55 million to charitable organizations.

“This is devastating to us,” said Ann Lee, publicity chairwoman for The Charmettes, a civic group that staged the show in Broward. “This was our No. 1 fundraiser for scholarships, cancer research and other community activities. We’ve been doing this for 35 years. People from all around look forward to this event and dressing-up and having a good time with the whole family.”

The cancellation is also a big financial blow in West Palm Beach, where Delta Sigma Theta Sorority produced the show to raise money for its college scholarship program for local high school students.

“This was by far one of the largest fundraisers for us,” said Charice Robinson, the president of the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter. “It will have a significant impact. We usually raise between $15,000 to $20,000 in a night.”

Robinson added with a sigh that she will personally miss the family event.

“I’ve taken my own daughter. It’s a rite of passage for black women, introducing them to high fashion and glamour. It’s a party with a purpose.”

Miami Herald staff writer Audra D.S. Burch contributed to this report.

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