The November 4th First Friday at Phoenix Art Museum will be one for the books as it will be the first time the public will be able to see Emphatics: Avant Garde Fashion of 1963-2013.

In 2015, Phoenix Art Museum acquired an extensive archive of avant-garde fashion collected by James and Karin Legato who owned and operated Emphatics, an exclusive store in Pittsburgh. Featuring works by designers such as Azzedine Alaïa, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, John Paul Gaultier, and Romeo Gigli, along with original runway show invitations, videos, and accessories.

Over the upcoming weeks we will be sharing insight and behind the scenes looks to our upcoming exhibition so be sure to check back every Friday for the latest look into Emphatics!


In remembrance of Bill Cunningham, a true fashion icon and New York Times photographer, our Curator of Fashion Design, Dennita Sewell would like to share a special photo and personal note that Mr. Cunningham hand delivered to her in 1995, while she was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Cunningham photographed Dennita at the Costume Institute's opening gala for Orientalism: Visions of The East in Western Dress. Bill was impressed by that jacket Dennita was wearing which she made and modeled after Christian Dior's "New Look."

Here is what the note Bill wrote to Dennita (written on the back of the image below) says:

Dear Dennita,
What a joy seeing the results of your work. Dior would have approved of the tailoring. The pattern matching on the seams...the shape of your jacket and most of all the refinement. The further we get from the 1947 new look the more people seem to exaggerate and vulgarize what was so elegant and refined in Dior’s original. You have captured all that Dior presented.
If you kids have time, I would enjoy a fashion table lunch at your museum lunch room. Call and leave a message when it would be convenient. I was sorry the paper did not use this print but they try not to use photos of people looking in the camera lens.
Best regards,


Phoenix Art Museum Receives $2 Million Endowment Benefiting Fashion Design

Phoenix Art Museum Receives $2 Million Endowment Benefiting Fashion Design

Donation in honor of Arizona Costume Institute’s 50th anniversary will support curator of fashion design

Phoenix Art Museum announced this weekend that it has received a $2 million endowment from Jacquie Dorrance, longtime Museum patron and member of Phoenix Art Museum’s Board of Trustees. One of the largest gifts the Museum has received in recent years, the endowment commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Arizona Costume Institute and the 16-year tenure of Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design. It will provide a permanent funding source for the curator of fashion design position which will be named the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design.

“Jacquie Dorrance’s vision, leadership and profound generosity will have a transformative impact on the Museum’s ability not only to develop fashion exhibitions and programming, but to retain and invest in our curatorial talent for decades to come,” said Amada Cruz, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director. “At Phoenix Art Museum, we are truly humbled by the largesse of our donors, whose support enables us to make our most ambitious goals a reality.”

Mrs. Dorrance and her husband Bennett have supported Phoenix Art Museum for nearly four decades, and Mrs. Dorrance has served as a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees since 1999, also serving as chair of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary gala in 2009. Passionately committed to the arts in Arizona, Mrs. Dorrance has also been a longtime patron of the Arizona Costume Institute (ACI). ACI was instrumental in the establishment of the fashion design collection in 1966, and has continued to raise funds that enabled the expansion of the collection, exhibitions, and programs. This endowment recognizes ACI’s lasting commitment and aids the continuation of their work by providing funding in perpetuity for the the curator of fashion design position.

“I am pleased not only to support fashion design at Phoenix Art Museum and celebrate the contributions of Arizona Costume Institute, but also to recognize the exceptional talents, leadership and unparalleled commitment of Dennita Sewell, whose dedication has enabled the Museum to expand its collection and develop world-class exhibitions,” said Mrs. Dorrance.

Sewell has held the curator of fashion design position at Phoenix Art Museum since 2000. She came to the Museum from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she managed that august institution’s extensive costume collection. Over the nearly two decades at Phoenix Art Museum, she has organized and curated 40 exhibitions, including Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, Chado Ralph Rucci, and most recently, The White Shirt According to Me. Gianfranco Ferré. Through her work both with donors and international fashion houses, Sewell has played a key role in the evolution of the fashion design collection, now numbering more than 5,000 objects, elevating its prestige and infusing the historical collection with contemporary objects from some of the most recognized names in couture.

This gift ensures that the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design will continue to lead research and scholarship in this collection area and to develop internationally-acclaimed exhibitions, presenting fashion in all of its complexity and nuance, and allowing visitors to find new connections between the past and the present everyday.



Biopiracy, Dress, March 2014. In collaboration with Julia Koerner and Materialise. 3D-printed thermoplastic polyurethane 92A-1 with silicone coating. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum. Gift of Arizona Costume Institute. Photo by Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios

Biopiracy, Dress, March 2014. In collaboration with Julia Koerner and Materialise. 3D-printed thermoplastic polyurethane 92A-1 with silicone coating. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum. Gift of Arizona Costume Institute. Photo by Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios

Arizona Costume Institute launches a yearlong celebration of its 50th anniversary with the purchase of a one-of-a-kind 3D printed couture dress by Iris van Herpen. The Dutch fashion designer has been lauded in Vogue magazine  as “one of contemporary fashion’s few true conceptual thinkers.” In 2011, the designer’s 3D printed dresses were included in TIME magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of the year. Van Herpen is a guest of the prestigious Parisian Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and her highly coveted creations have recently been acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Groninger Museum, and now Phoenix Art Museum.

ACI,with the guidance of Phoenix Art Museum’s Curator of Fashion Design, Dennita Sewell, purchased a silicone covered polyurethane 3D printed dress, known as the “Eleventh” dress and the finale look from van Herpen’s Fall/Winter 2014 “Biopiracy” collection. Van Herpen collaborated with architect Julia Koerner and Materialise to develop the innovative design and materials. The “Biopiracy” collection is one of van Herpen’s most significant because it demonstrates how cutting edge technology can be generously incorporated into high-fashion without compromising its style and function. In addition to van Herpen’s creative use of new materials, “Biopiracy” was presented in a shocking visual performance that featured models suspended in vacuum sealed plastic sheets.

The “Eleventh” dress was featured in National Geographic magazine and is on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta  in van Herpen’s  debut U.S. exhibition, “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion,” which travels to Phoenix Art Museum in 2018.  This inventive dress is the first 3D printed object to be acquired by Phoenix Art Museum and, according to Sewell, holds a special significance in  the museum’s fashion collection because of its revelatory design.

“The “Eleventh” dress is a groundbreaking design that exemplifies the enormous range of possibilities that exist for the future of fashion.  “We’re elated to have acquired such a rare example of Iris van Herpen’s pioneering work,” Sewell said.

The Iris van Herpen purchase is just one of many initiatives ACI and the Fashion Design Department have planned in 2016 to celebrate ACI’s golden anniversary. A major exhibition titled “Defining Moments: 50 Years of Fashion at Phoenix Art Museum” will feature 50 significant objects that chronicle the history of the museum’s permanent fashion design collection. The exhibit will be on view from April 2 – Aug. 7. In addition to the exhibit, a cocktail party open to the public is also planned with fashion industry icons such as Ruben and Isabel Toledo attending.