On a cold December night, hundreds of fashion-forward folks brought the heat at the second annual Gatsby Showcase, an awards and runway show with a goal of empowerment. Held at the Black-owned Salamander Hotel in Southwest, Washington, D.C., and hosted by actress and entrepreneur Vivica A. Fox, the showcase honored groundbreaking supermodel Beverly Johnson, celebrity makeup artist Derrick Rutledge and other do-gooders whose philanthropy and efforts align with The Gatsby Showcase Foundation’s mission.
“The Gatsby Foundation was created to empower historically disadvantaged groups to achieve economic independence and for them to achieve economic independence,” said Laura Fote, the event’s co-executive producer and CEO of L&B Concepts.
Fote said the event, held Dec. 4, was created “to provide grants for education and business development.”
As an entrepreneur in the beauty industry, with a long-running hair collection, Fox was inspired by the mission of The Gatsby Showcase Foundation and said she agreed to emcee the event, because she “loves giving back to the community.” Fox added that she leapt at the chance to honor her “very good friend, makeup guru,” Rutledge and one of her role models, Johnson, who received the Trailblazer Icon Award.
“One of the main reasons I’m here… is to honor fashion icon and living legend Ms. Beverly Johnson,” said Fox in a red-carpet exclusive with the Informer.
Johnson quickly interjected saying, “I Love her,” before giving Fox a kiss on the cheek.
After the brief Black Girl Magic meetup (red carpet style) with Johnson, Fox said she wouldn’t be who she was today without her groundbreaking influence and personal friendship.
The first Black supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue in August 1974, Johnson shared how meaningful it was to be recognized with the Trailblazer Icon Award by The Gatsby Showcase Foundation.
“It’s always wonderful to be acknowledged and it just makes me feel complete, and I am terribly grateful and humbled by this award. And it’s so wonderful to be here amongst these beautiful Black people,” she told the Informer before the showcase kicked off.
At the end of the show, which featured award presentations and fashions from designers Anya by Vivien (by Vivien Agbakoba), Miller’s Furs, Miguel Wilson and L&B Concepts, Johnson, at 70, delivered a moving speech and treated the audience to a supermodel stroll down the catwalk.
The foundation, showcase and L&B Concepts are all the brainchildren of CEO Fote and her husband Bertrand Fote, who said all of their ventures root from places of empowerment.
Makeup expert and skincare entrepreneur Rutledge said he was honored to receive an award from the foundation because it aligns with his support of education.
“It feels really good, because Laura and Bertrand are two phenomenal people. They believe in giving back and helping the next person try to move ahead with education. So to be a part of this and to be honored and appreciated really feels good,” Rutledge said.
The Fotes are driven by the desire to strengthen others.
“A lot of people need to be empowered. They have the talents… but they just need the guidance. And there are a lot of people in the community that are able to do that, but they don’t know how to reach those people, so we’re also creating that network,” Fote said.
As owner of L&B Concepts, Fote knows what it takes to find resources in order for a business to be good and thrive. Fote said she is proud to be one of the few Black women to retail Moser Glassworks, a handcrafted glass and crystal company based in the Czech Republic founded in 1867.
“To empower people, I took that major leap forward and went to the Czech Republic to face Moser and say ‘I would love to retail as well as create my own crystals,’” Fote said. “You can find them in Buckingham Palace… and you find them in a lot of Neiman Marcus [stores] and Saks, but here I am, a woman-owned business– certified— doing the crystals as well.”
Rutledge gave Fote a shoutout for her bravery in retailing Moser and taking her products to the runway.
“And what I love, Laura, is that you took the initiative to say, ‘I’m going to showcase my crystal on the runway… and show people exactly what L&B is all about,” Rutledge said.
Fote said there’s a message behind her runway marketing.
“Whatever you do, carry it with courage, carry it with faith,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you market your product. It doesn’t have to be on TV, it can be on the runway. If necklaces and earrings can be on the runway, why can’t crystals?”