NEW YORK Prior to her death on January 3, fashion maven Eunice Johnson, director and producer of the Ebony Fashion Fair, was set to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Costume Institute. This past Monday, they went ahead as planned with a luncheon in her honor at the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing, with a guest list that included Bill Clinton, White House social secretary Desirée Rogers, Anna Wintour, and Johnson's daughter, Linda Johnson Rice.
“We were so excited to celebrate Eunice for her fashion, her impact on African-American women, and all of her philanthropy,” said museum chief audience development officer Donna Williams, who conceived the event with Costume Institute curator Harold Koda. “Planning started about nine months beforehand, so when she passed, we just had to talk to her daughter and make sure she still wanted to go forward. The tone and the joy were still the same.”
Planned with the museum's events team, the luncheon included comments from museum staffers such as Williams, a tribute from Johnson family friend Bill Clinton, and a letter from the president and first lady, read by Desirée Rogers.
The meal, catered by Restaurant Associates, included a salad of mâche and radicchio with pomegranate vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds, sliced anjou pear, toasted hazelnuts, and crumbled feta and a main course of cider-braised breast of chicken with truffle mousse, squash, carrots, baby zucchini, and wild and brown rice pilaf. Before and after dining, the guests had the opportunity to mingle around a selection of outfits Johnson had chosen for the Ebony Fashion Fair during the years she planned the event.
The tribute to Eunice Johnson was the second in a series of annual luncheons hosted by the Met to appeal to different audiences—namely, the fashion set. “The impetus is to address the invisible history of fashion, not as acknowledged in the press,” said Williams, “but the people who've made a difference without all of the attention.”
To make sure that wider audience learns more about Johnson's work, and the kind words shared about her at the private luncheon, the Met filmed the event program to post to its YouTube account.