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Rudi Gernreich with Peggy Moffitt modeling the "Marlene Dietrich" pantsuit, 1964. Photograph © William Claxton, LLC, courtesy of Demont Photo Management & Fahey/Klein Gallery Los Angeles, with permission of the Rudi Gernreich trademark.
Peggy Moffitt in a Vinyl ensemble. Photograph © William Claxton,LLC, courtesy of Demont Photo Management & Fahey/Klein Gallery Los Angeles.
Rudi Gernreich runway show at the Wiltern in L.A. 1985. Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.
Dancer Serena Richardson in costume designed by Rudi Gernreich for the Lewitzky Dance Company´s Inscape production, 1976. Photograph © Daniel Esgro.


    10 June 2019

    Los Angeles, By Katja Schmolka @katjaschmolka

    It is a sunny but cool morning in Los Angeles. The sky is tinted in its famous baby blue, a blue so unique - it exists only here in L.A. As I walk up the stairs of the Skirball Cultural Center, a large graphic black and white poster graced by a young woman with short hair and a counter - checked black and white dress catches my eyes. It says in red letters - Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich. 


    The Skirball Cultural Center devoted this exhibition FEARLESS FASHION: Rudi Gernreich to the life and extraordinary body of work of the Austrian-born American avant-garde fashion designer whose avant-garde fashion designs are regarded as the most innovative and dynamic fashion of the 1960s and 1970s. It is the first exhibition ever to focus on the social and cultural impact of the Los Angeles designers’ vision. Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich features more than eighty ensembles - including the monokini, the thong, unisex clothing, alongside original sketches and drawings, letters and personal papers, photographs of his family, friends, and colleagues. Gernreichs visionary fashion designs are still in the air - influencing today's fashion designers.


    Rudi Gernreich was the IT FASHION DESIGNER in Americas’ 1960s and 1970s. Catapulted overnight in the Olympus of his fame through a black waist-high panty fabricated out of soft and elastic jersey with only two strings attached - the famous and highly controversial Monokini; basically a topless swimsuit. L.A., New York, and the whole world went crazy about this iconic and yet disturbing piece of fabric.

    The lovingly put together exhibition also sketches the Viennese´s escape from the Nazi regiment with his mother, Lisl Gernreich in 1938. Without money, possessions, or the English language, the two of them were stranded in Los Angeles in Hollywood´s “Little Vienna" where Austrian refugees found a new home among other fellow Austrian immigrants in 1938. 


    “I felt if a woman can wear pants, a man can also wear a skirt" - Rudi Gernreich

    Many loved and admired him, however, at the same time Rudi Gernreich had many opponents in conservative America at this time. Through his fashion statements, he stood up for women's freedom, equality, and gay rights. He did this with "gentlemen charm", good vibe and a lot of respect for the world. His close friends and muses Leon Bing and Peggy Moffitt made his visions a reality, appearing in eclectic fashion campaigns, runway shows and the first ever made Fashion Video “BASIC BLACK” shot in 1967 by Peggy Moffitt´s husband, William Claxton.


    When you think of Gernreich's creations, you picture sleek garments in the most colorful of colors such as pink, red, yellow and green, often also in a twist with medium-sized and small black and white checks, - which Gernreich borrowed from the Wiener Werkstätte Vienna Workshop. Also the legendary ballerinas designed by Gernreich were very pop. Inspired by the costume world of ballet and tinted in the same colors and patterns as his dresses - the so-called Total Look was born! With this move, Gernreich started the new age shoe revolution. Flat shoes were his landmark in a variety of ways. Even the mannequins he used were flat healed.


    Dance & Theater shows Rudi Gernreich's first ballet dresses which he designed for the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company performance "Inscape". Accompanied by the sweeping idea of Freedom and Movement. His costumes allowed the body to move freely for the first time. - An idea, so visionary and ahead of its time.


    He wanted to see his clothes and designs manifested in the real world worn by real people. It was only through his visions, and his tireless work, that these completely new fashion designs and their stories for a new better world came into the reality of fashion department stores and people's consciousness.

    "I see unisex as a total statement about equality of men and women. Their different sexual natures no longer need the support of differences of dress. Unisex reveals nature, our common humanity. It doesn't hide or confuse it." 

    Rudi Gernreich

    The exhibition Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich is on view at the Skirball Cultural Center until September 1, 2019.





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