Summer is getting closer and colorful swimwear collections abound; trikinis, bikinis and super hot swimsuit are all the rage, but the questions is, do you know where they come from? or who was the designer who first created them?
This post is dedicated to another less-known fashion designer, who contributed to set the female body free from constrictions and inhibitions, Rudi Gernreich.
His great contribution for the fashion world was in the proposition of a new concept: clothes should give comfort. And people should have fun wearing them.
His intuitions still feed the fashion world; for many people he was a poet, to some he was the oracle of bad taste.
His total looks were unmistakable. Couture-cut swimsuits, color block, plastic and patent leather, square-patterns and strips-pattern mixed together. He also loved street-style.
His underwear creations showed pubic hairs, and swimsuits showed nipples.
He felt the social changes, the revolution of fashion and he was the first to create top-less dresses. But he was heavily accused of being too much revolutionary, too much insolent, ignoring established ethical standards.
Nevertheless, his credo was to free the female body, to merge down female clothes with male clothes and to go beyond the concept of fashion as a status.
Born in 1922, Rudi Gernreich lived for his passions, fashion and ballet, which cultivated for the rest of his life. His carrier as a New York based fashion designer was hampered by its avant-garde vision of style.
Finally in 1952, working for Walter Bass, he gained his first review on Sport-Illustrated, which mentioned his top-less swimsuit. He also produced a collection of long knit dresses, which met immediate success.
He designed men’s and accessories’ collections as well and during the ’60s he was completely fascinated by the op-art artistic movement, reinventing silhouettes, characterized by strong color and geometrical patterns.
His genial way of cutting fabrics and his dramatic vision of female silhouette gave him the idea to create the top-less swimsuit. Trying to avoid any connection with pornography, he incorporated the idea of topless in every outfit. In 1965, after creating a total look for Ringo Star, he received the Fashion Award for his influence in the contemporary fashion’s trends and for his revolutionary design of sports and underwear collections.
He also decided to sell his clothes at cheap prices and his vision of beauty became a total look, also including chiffon T-shirts, helmet-hats and giant turtle neck. His sense of graphic became so extreme that he decided to make geometrical tattoos on the body of his models.
He decreed the death of fashion and all its couturiers in 1969: the clothes of the future had to be easy to wear, a perfect balance between men’s and women’s wardrobe, useful beyond sex and status. The dress had to make the body beautiful, without creating an unreal look.
In 1971 he claimed to hate nostalgia and listed the criteria of contemporary fashion as anonymity, universality, unisex, realism and nudity. In his opinion designers had to have more technical skills and less artistic skills.
His last contribution to fashion was in 1981 when he created the “Pubikini” and set the female body totally free.
He unfortunately died of cancer in 1985.
During his carrier he collaborated with two person, without whom his work wouldn’t be possible, Peggy Moffit, a former model, and her husband William Claxton, art director and fashion photographer. They were the key to Rudi Gernreich’s success and they collaborated with him to all his collections. Peggy Moffit was the only model, who could give life to Gernreich’s clothes and Claxton was the only photographer, who could capture the magic of this union.
My final thoughts
It’s amazing how modern this man was, speaking about trends and concepts, which are all the rage in today’s fashion. He used to say (and I totally agree with him): “Fashion isn’t a tragedy, it’s entertainment”.
Isn’t it maybe what fashion become today? Pure entertainment.