By Alexis Watkins
On Saturday, Nov. 14, 2021, the annual NiteFlite Gala was held at the W in Scottsdale by the Scottsdale 20/30 Club, with help from creative agency Luxe and City. Guests in beautiful gowns and perfectly tailored suits walked a red carpet upon entering the W, where photographers and media lined up to take pictures and talk to them.
Once my colleagues and I were inside of the hotel, we were escorted to the elevator, not before getting some of our own pictures of course, and we made it to the second floor where the party had already started. There was music playing, people walking around conversing, pictures being taken and even an area for people to play poker. I basically felt as if I had walked into a scene from “Gossip Girl,” the energy was amazing.
Since this was an event for charity, throughout the night there were different items being auctioned off.
Many important people were there, including Khamsone Sirimanivong, president of the Costume Institute at The Phoenix Art Museum, who I had the pleasure of interviewing. Sirimanivong works on a board with other talented women and their website states the following, “The Arizona Costume Institute was founded in 1966 to support Phoenix Art Museum’s Fashion Design Department in the acquisition and preservation of garments and accessories of historical and aesthetic significance…”
Talking to Sirimanivong, I was able to ask her a bit more about what she has been working on and why fashion is important to her.
“What I do is I lead the organization as a fashion forward organization that strives to preserve art and history through fashion, so our mission is ‘fashion is art,’” she said. “We really believe that fashion is not just about wearing clothes, it really tells a story about who you are, your origins, your culture, what you do for a living, and it’s more than that too, it’s not just, again, the articles that you wear.”
Sirimanivong was also able to tell me more about how the costume institute works with the Phoenix Art Museum and its significance to the community. Pieces from designers like Alexander McQueen and many more have been acquired by the institute. This is what makes the costume institute what Sirimanivong calls, “a fashion library.”
Phoenix is a city where the fashion industry is on the rise, an exclusive “secret society” as Sirimanivong would put it. She and those at the costume institute are working with different nonprofits such as FABRIC and The Garment League to help support small local designers in Phoenix. The costume institute also partners with The MET, FIT and other renowned museums to bring fashion back to Phoenix.
“It (the fashion industry in Phoenix) has become a little more open because there is a need, not for fashion designers, but for slow fashion, for handmade items, for fashion and clothing that is really based on human experiences, and individual experiences,” Sirimanivong said. “We are really just a community of resources, just like a library, we’re just a fashion library.”
The fashion industry in Phoenix will definitely be something to keep an eye on in the months and years to come. In a place where there are so many young, innovative creatives, there is no telling what will be next for this city, but one thing is for sure, many of us at The Chic Daily and the Costume Institute are more than excited to be a part of it.
Check out the Phoenix Art Museum’s fashion exhibit to see what pieces they have and to learn more about the history and importance of fashion.