Ebony show is 'Fit to be Fabulous'

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 1:19 p.m.
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An Ebony Fashion Fair model sports very baggy jeans, a tube top and a single-buttoned blouse during the annual show to benefit scholarships for high school seniors. This year's theme is ''Fit to be Fabulous.'' The show was held at Lincoln Middle School.

JARRETT BAKER/Special to the Guardian
High fashion from Paris, Milan and New York City graced the stage of Lincoln Middle School as the 48th Annual Ebony Fashion Fair tour made a stop in Gainesville a week ago, dazzling the audience with an array of haute couture and helping to fill the coffers of the Zeta Phi Beta scholarship fund.
The tour's 2005-2006 theme is "Fit to be Fabulous." The show, attended by more than 300, featured 11 models - nine females and two males - who sported the latest fashions from designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Roberto Cavalli.
The Ebony Fashion Fair is known for its inclusion of black designers in its fashion collection. This year's show was no different, with Ebony Fashion Fair commentator Jada Collins letting the audience know which garments were those of black designers.
Collins, in a sultry voice, introduced fashions and amused spectators with details about the garments, including designers' names and the city of origin.
In one instance, Collins, who bears a strong resemblance to rhythm and blues and pop sensation Beyoncé, directed attention to the bare midriff of a model, saying, "You have to do your sit-ups before you wear this ladies."
"Being fit to be fabulous has nothing to do with size," Collins told the audience," You have to be fashion fearless."
Leathers, silks, suedes, fur and even ostrich feathers were some of the variety of looks that made the fashions unique. Attention-grabbing colors ranging from canary yellow to striking gold and silver to hot pink skirt suits and evening gowns dominated the parade of fashions.
Models titillated the audience by unbuttoning and unzipping coats to reveal back-baring gowns and plunging necklines. They flipped garments inside out to reveal fine Russian fur lining and snatched designer accessories out of the folds of their coats. All the while they were dancing to hip-hop music that blared over the sound system. The flashing background onstage heightened the excitement of the event.
Some females in the audience expressed their approval of the male models sporting the latest in men's fashions, including swim wear. The male models, in turn, played to the audience, with coy looks and by baring their toned chests. Collins described the segment as "Hot, sexy and fit to be fabulous."
The Ebony Fashion Fair show is billed as the largest traveling fashion show in the world, with stops in more than 180 cities. Gainesville has been on that list for more than 20 years. The show is coordinated by Eunice Johnson, wife of the late John H. Johnson and secretary-treasurer of Johnson Publishing Inc., which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines.
Marsha Kiner, president of the Delta Sigma Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, said ticket sales from the event have benefited hundreds of women through scholarships since the show began coming to Gainesville.
"There is something spectacular about the fashions in the Ebony Fashion Fair show. It gives women here in Gainesville a chance to see what's current and trendy. For one night we can feel like we're in one of the bigger cities like Chicago, New York, or even Milan," Kiner said. She added that the show involves the community and is an event they come out and gladly support.
Kiner is a past recipient of a Zeta Phi Beta scholarship.
"The scholarship winners are our sisters, daughters, nieces and neighbors. The funds are continuing to give good will to everyone," Kiner said.
Verna Johnson, fashion show chairwoman, said what she likes about the event is that it allows spectators to visualize what fashions could be.
"We can dream and just look. Just the idea of dressing up and going out to see fashions from a worldwide fashion show is wonderful. Women see clothing here they can identify with from Ebony and Jet magazines. This show brings them closer to these fashions," Johnson said.
Ilene Silverman-Budd, owner of Ilene's For Fashion in northwest Gainesville, was this year's honorary chairwoman.
"Everyone knows that she is the epitome of fashion and is known for giving back to the community," Kiner said.
Silverman-Budd said she was quite proud to be chosen as the event's honorary chairperson for this year.
"I was delighted to be asked and provided the opportunity to make new friends and have a chance to be a part of our community in a very 'Fit to be Fabulous' way. It was also a delight to see all the fashions, the color, movement and accessories from jewelry to handbags in the show. I applaud the show," she said.
Carmela Bright-Phillips, a supporter of the annual event, called the show "a grand opportunity to see what's out there, the colors and trends in the fashion world."
The ticket price ($25 for adults, $15 for high school students) included a subscription to either Ebony (one year) or Jet (six months) magazines. Most of the proceeds will fund scholarships awarded by Zeta Phi Beta sorority and be used as contributions to the March of Dimes.
Remaining tour stops in Florida in January include Miami, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale. For more information, visit www.ebonyfashionfair.com.
Teresa D. Southern can be reached at (352) 337-0373 or at southet@gvilleguardian.com.

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