Monday, January 16, 2017

Emphatics at the Phoenix Art Museum

Pittsburgh's Avant Garde Boutique

Yesterday I had the chance to see a stunning fashion exhibit entitled: Emphatics Avant Garde Fashion 1963-2013.  

The Phoenix Art Museum exhibit showcased the clothing, fashion accessories and runway show memorabilia collected over a lifetime by James and Karin Legato of Pittsburgh. 

James and Karin Legato
(Photo Emphatics / Legato)

For nearly 50 years the Legato's curated cutting edge fashion to offer their clients in their Emphatics lifestyle boutique in Pittsburgh. 

They built their career they immersing themselves in design and seeking out one-of-a-kind art to wear. And, in the process, they formed lifelong friendships with some of the world's most renowned avant garde designers. The Legato's were known for treating designers with respect.  They understood that design is not linear and sometimes the creative process defies predictable time schedules. Letters from their designers demonstrate a true two-way affection.

 Karin Legato with Jean Paul Gautier
(Photo by James Legato)

The Legato's took exceptional care in serving each of their clients, taking special care to remember previous purchases and suggest how new items might coordinate with previous purchases. When a client tried on clothing at Emphatics, the shop's lighting and design assured they were afforded star treatment.

Thierry Mugler
Silk Dress and Belt 1985

The Emphatics Boutique closed in 2014 after James Legato fell ill (passing away in 2015 at the age of 71).

Avant Garde Fashion 1963-2013 

The Emphatics exhibit was beautifully curated by Dennita Sewell working closely with Karin Legato. The exhibition appeared clean and simple, yet the attention to even the smallest detail became very evident.

Displays included works by Alexander McQueen, Thiery Mugler, Claude Montana, Kenzo, Jean Paul Gauthier, Maison Martin Mariela, Azzedine Alaia, Olivier Theyskens, Maud Frizon, Issey Miyake and Kansai Yamamoto.

 Top and Shirt - Issey Miyake 1989
(Heat Pleated Polyester)

Maison Martin Margiela 2010
Rayon Crepe 

Jacket (Chamarra) 
Kansai Yamamoto 1979 
Cotton Corduroy 

Maud Frizon 1986
Suede Metal

 Skirt, Bodysuit and Hood
Azzedine Alaia 1986
Wool Knit

Claude Montana Runway Memorabilia 

Thierry Mugler 1987
Silk Satin

Runway Show Memorabilia Thierry Mugler

This show was special for me. It comes on the heels of a recent tour of Fallingwater at Bear Run PA (Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic home built by the Kaufmann department store family of Pittsburgh). 

Considered together I feel Pittsburgh has been an incubator for adventurous design.

The Kaufmann's operated Pittsburgh's famous department (whose flagship store was home to Mrs. Kaufmann's trendsetting Vendome Shops). In the Vendome shops Mrs. Kaufman carefully selected Parisian fashion to bring home and sell in Pittsburgh). Kaufmann's department store reached its zenith in the late 1950's.

Then in the 1960's, seemingly on the heels of Kaufmann's, came James Legato's new twist on avant garde design with his Emphatics lifestyle boutique. A design force that lasted right up until its closure in 2013.

We Phoenician's are truly blessed that the Emphatics collection has found a home at the Phoenix Art Museum and offer thanks to the Arizona Costume Institute, the Ellman Foundation and Jane Jozoff.

The Emphatics exhibition captures the sense of a period of exceptional creativity and energy.  An era where we walked on the moon, bought Campbell's soup can art from Andy Warhol and listened to The Beatles, Elvis, grunge and hip hop. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

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