The Ebony Fashion Fair traveling fashion show sashayed into town at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on April 12th. Hundreds in their Easter Sunday best filled the venue's main ballroom to enjoy the annual fundraiser luncheon for the local nonprofit devoted to at risk youth and their families, The Lullaby Guild. NBC4 Reporter, Beverly White, handled Mistress of Ceremonies duties as the largely African American crowd cheered on the entertaining fashion show of the latest outfits from the runways of Paris, New York, London and Milan.
An important event on the US Black community calendar for over 50 years, the fashion show travels all over the country presenting a runway show produced by the fashion editors of Ebony magazine and raising funds for local charities. A rite of passage for most African Americans, the show is a durable, two-hour entertainment extravaganza. The 51st iteration, called "The Runway Report 2008-2009. What's Hip. What's Hot. What's Now!," did not disappoint. Gorgeous models in high priced outfits walked the runway with a bounce and verve that's now gone missing from designer spring and fall collections. Fashion Fair models dipped and swayed in choreographed dance steps, flipped, tossed and caught jackets with military precision and pantomimed comedic vignettes that told a story as well as communicated the design details of the clothes.
The crowd roared its approval as models in outfits by Luca Luca and Emmanuel Ungaro staged a mock girl fight over the attentions of one suitor. We knew the argument had taken a serious turn when an especially expressive model by the name of Deonna Pinkerton pulled off her big gold earrings to have it out with her opponent, who responded by brandishing her stiletto pump. When fashions echoed silhouettes from the 80s, the show's producers slyly incorporated hip hop dance moves not seen since the days of Kid N' Play's dance off in "Houseparty."
Only Ebony Fashion Fair could get away with sending out pimp walking models in tailored suit jackets with shorts, fishnet stockings and trilby hats. One model extended the pimp dandy motif by acting out her own "Scarface" striptease, handing off her briefcase, walking stick, trench coat, jacket and hat to stunned male underlings as she revealed a tight gray unitard to thunderous applause.
The afternoon wasn't devoted solely to frivolous pursuits. The Lullaby Guild acknowledged its beginnings as the interracial auxiliary group formed in 1949 to provide adoptive homes in Black families to African American children in the California state foster care system. Since then, the Lullaby Guild has expanded its mandate to offer scholarships and personal development programs to the Los Angeles community. Since 2005, the Guild has offered the Larry McCormick Scholarship awarded to a deserving college student pursuing a degree in journalism. Established to honor Larry McCormick, one of the first African Americans in Los Angeles to anchor a news broadcast when he joined KCOP-TV in 1969. He became a fixture at KTLA and co-anchored the station's KTLA News at the Ten Weekend Edition. McCormick MC'd the Lullaby Guild's annual Ebony Fashion Fair event for over 40 years until his death in 2004. Jennifer Amaechi, a first generation college student at Loyola Marymount University, received this year's scholarship award. A native of Nigeria, Ms. Amaechi is a sophomore communications major.
Fashion shows generate a contagious sense of community that it's a shame they are no longer a way life in Los Angeles. Remember when Bullocks Wilshire used to present daily fashion shows in its basement tea room? A friend's mom was a model and we thought she was the most glamorous creature alive in her 80s era wedge cut.
On Sunday, luncheon attendees modeled their own outfits before and after the event, swanning about the Westin Bonaventure hallways and posing for photographs. I indulged in taking a few snaps, myself.
You haven't lived til you've had the opportunity to enjoy a super fly fashion show luncheon with hundreds of Black ladies decked out in St John suits and Easter hats (St John should really reconsider its advertising strategy and acknowledge such a stylish but undeserved demographic).
The West Coast leg of the Ebony Fashion Fair's tour continues, with stops in Oxnard on 4/14, Fresno on 4/16, Sacramento on 4/17, San Francisco on 4/18 and Stockton on 4/19.