Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985)

I have to admit, that I could seriously care less about owning designer things.
I like what I like, regardless of what label adorns my sleeve.
Now, not that I am not excited about new designers---quite on the contrary.
I'm just not the type that has to own fancy designer things.
With that said, one of the few super fancy designer things I have come across and happily own, is a Rudi Gernreich bathing suit.

Rudi Gernreich was born in Vienna and migrated to LA to escape the Nazis. Those unfamiliar, Rudi was quite the innovator. He revolutionized the acceptance of slacks in woman's fashion, the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothing, created the knit look, the topless bathing suit, the Unisex look, and the thong.
He was not only a fashion designer, but a professional dancer and a gay activist. He co-founded the Mattachine Society---America's first gay liberation movement.


He was always challenging typical gender roles creating androgynous seperates and suits. His work was so controversial at the time that it often overshadowed the artistry and sheer beauty of his work. (ask your parents or grandparents if they remember when the topless bathing suit was introduced---it should be a riot)
The story of Rudi Gernreich reminds me to appreciate the designer as an artist first and foremost. Knowing their struggle helps to understand their passion. He wasn't creating fashion for shock value, he was creating fashion to liberate.