Skip to content

Fashion’s Subversives

Start Date 05 June 2021
End Date 28 November 2021
Venue Phoenix Art Museum
Location Phoenix, USA
2 images of exhibition with mannequins on a plinth displaying black short garment and green jacket draped over shoulder. Tattoos on legs

Spanning the 19th century through today, Fashion’s Subversives presents nearly 40 examples of garments and accessories—from the humble denim jean to the scandalous bikini—that broke from culturally accepted norms and forever changed popular fashion and the fashion industry. Featured designers include Yves St. Laurent, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo, Emilio Pucci, Balenciaga, Rudi Gernreich, Diane von Furstenburg, and Paco Rabanne.

Created as a complementary exhibition to the special-engagement exhibition Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich, Fashion’s Subversives amplifies the concepts of revolution, resistance, and authenticity captured in the retrospective of Gernreich’s life and work, which is organized and circulated by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles. Much like Gernreich’s own brave and audacious designs, including the topless monokini, the ensembles in Fashion’s Subversives changed contemporary fashion not only on the runway, but in real life.



Fashion’s Subversives draws entirely from the Museum’s comprehensive fashion-design collection, including the Emphatics Archive. Featuring avant-garde fashions by legendary designers Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler, and others, the archive was established in 2015 through an expansive donation to Phoenix Art Museum by James and Karin Legato, who owned and operated Emphatics, the chic, storied Pittsburgh boutique that was the first in the United States to carry clothing by Jean Paul Gaultier. The exhibition also features garments from the Museum’s newly established Geoffrey Beene Archive, made possible through a generous gift from Manhattan-based Patsy Tarr, president of the 2wice Arts Foundation and the founder and publisher of 2wice magazines and books.


Image: Courtesy of Phoenix Art Gallery, Arizona.  Jean Paul Gaultier, Jacket, Spring/Summer 2007. Silk with embroidery. Museum purchase of the Emphatics Archive with funds provided by Barbara Anderson, Milena and Tony Astorga, Jacquie Dorrance, Ellman Foundation, Michael and Heather Greenbaum, Diane and Bruce Halle, Nancy R. Hanley, Ellen and Howard Katz and Miriam Sukhman.