Phoenix Art Museum to acquire fashion archive of Pittsburgh's Emphatics boutique

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Emphatics Grid

For 50 years James and Karin Legato curated and sold pieces by some of fashion's premier designers of the 1960s through the early 2000s at their Downtown boutique, Emphatics. Now those historic pieces will be preserved for future generations of fashion enthusiasts to enjoy.

The Phoenix Art Museum has acquired more than 400 garments and accessories, as well as rare photos and videos of runway shows and original runway show invitations, from Emphatics boutique, which closed early last year due to a serious health matter in the Legato family.

The acquisition is a "transformational gift" for the museum, its curator of fashion design, Dennita Sewell, said in a video about it.

"This collection is really important to our archive because it fills a gap of works that we don't have," she said. "It allows us to tell a story about a really golden moment in fashion design."

During its 50 years in business -- first at the former Jenkins Arcade and then at One Oxford Centre -- Emphatics carried such designers as Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix, Alaia and the avant-garde designs of several others. It also was the first place to carry Jean Paul Gaultier designs in America. After the boutique closed, a reception was held last summer for invited guests to preview Emphatics' archives in hopes that a permanent home would be found for it.

The Legatos received serious interest and offers from several parties, they said, and at one point there was talk of possibly mounting a temporary exhibit of the archives at the Heinz History Center. The acquisition by the Phoenix Art Museum is the first of a number of significant acquisitions and events the institution has planned to mark its 50th anniversary in 2016.


(Photos: Designs from the Emphatics archive featured at a preview reception at the boutique last summer. Sara Bauknecht/Post-Gazette)

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