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Auction Preview: Eunice Johnson’s Couture Collection at Leslie Hindman

Eunice Johnson knew how to make an entrance. The wife of Ebony publisher John H. Johnson, Eunice was the first to bring haute couture to the black community—with the Ebony Fashion Fair in the ‘50s and again with Fashion Fair cosmetics in the ‘70s. Johnson was also one of the first black women to visit the couturiers of Paris…

Eunice Johnson knew how to make an entrance. The wife of Ebony publisher John H. Johnson, Eunice was among the first to bring haute couture to the black community—with the Ebony Fashion Fair in the ‘50s and again with Fashion Fair cosmetics in the ‘70s. Johnson was also one of the first black women to visit the couturiers of Paris, and she proved she meant business by buying pieces outright for both her runway shows and her personal collection. When she died this past January, her fashion fairs and her reputation as Chicago’s queen of flashy fashion survived her. On Saturday, September 11th, Leslie Hindman (1338 W. Lake St.; 312-280-1212, lesliehindman.com) will throw open the doors to her expertly curated closet, offering more than 900 items for preview and purchase.

A Couture Ungaro peasant coat hand-fitted by the designer himself is expected to fetch between $1,000 and $2,000, but there are hundreds of options for shoppers not necessarily looking for museum-quality pieces. In addition to the traditional auction, Leslie Hindman will be selling more than 800 pieces in a tag sale priced between $10 and $50. “The last time we had a tag sale it was kind of a free-for-all, so it should be priceless,” says sales director Abigail Rutherford. “She was such an incredible woman and such a huge part of the fashion industry. There obviously is going to be some great interest in her pieces just so people can kind of have a piece of her.” Both the tag sale and auction are open to the public. “Literally anyone can show up and preview her items.” To prep eager shoppers, we asked Rutherford to pull out and describe three standout items from the sale.

Multi-colored sweater
“This is a Zhandra Rhodes green and purple mohair wool oversized sweater, and it has Lurex threads throughout, which obviously shows her flamboyance and her style, keeping consistent with her color palette. This is probably from the 1980s. It’s a very now piece. I think that the vintage guru would love a piece like this.” $100-$200 expected. (Auction on September 16th at 5:00 p.m. at Leslie Hindman.)
 

Blue cape
“This is a Givenchy sky blue fur-trimmed cape. This is a fox fur. Very classic, but still that bright blue color shows her color choice. In comparison to some of the other things it might seem understated, but I can’t say most people have blue fur in their closet.” $200–$400 expected. (Auction on September 16th at 5:00 p.m. at Leslie Hindman.)
 

Paisley coat
“This is a Jean-Louis Scherrer silk paisley coat, and it’s kind of a swing fit. But again, very flamboyant, very fun. This was probably from the 1980s too. And this is in for $30 in the tag sale. It was probably upwards of $1,000 to $2,000.” $30. (Tag sale, September 11th through 16th at Leslie Hindman.)

Photographs: Sarah Collins

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