A Eunice Johnson Appreciation: Around the World With Ebony Fashion Fair

Audrey Smaltz, Ebony Fashion Fair’s legendary commentator, reminisces about hitting the road with the doyenne of black fashion.

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eunicejohnson
AP

No one ever called Mr. John H. Johnson’s wife by her first name. People would ask me, “What’s Mrs. Johnson’s first name?” And I would always respond, “MRS.!”

When I first met Mrs. Johnson, I was a diamond in the rough; I was just coming out of a divorce, and I needed a job. Fast. Mrs. Johnson took me on, and throughout most of the ‘70s, I worked as her personal assistant and later, as her fashion show commentator. I was a young girl from Harlem with a fashion dream fulfilled.

Together, we traveled the world first-class to Paris, London, Rome, Venice, the French Riviera, staying at the best hotels: the Lido on Venice’s Grand Canal, the Plaza Athenee in Paris.

But while the locales were glamorous, the work was anything but. Working without a car or driver, I hailed taxis and directed the transfers, from the airport to the hotel, to designer salons to fashion presentations and back, hauling bags the whole time. Before I could have half the day to myself on Saturdays, I had to run Mrs. Johnson’s errands. I kept a journal during those times, just to keep up. A typical “day off” in Rome consisted of five or more stops:

Lancetti (pick up Mrs. Johnson’s dress)

Valentino (buying for the show)