Rudi Gernreich was an early pioneer in the gay rights movement and a trailblazing fashion designer who embraced gender fluidity in the 1960s.
Gernreich’s life and fashions will be on display at The Skirball Cultural Center in “Fearless Fashion: Rudi Genreich.”
The exhibit, opening Thursday and closing September 1, features more than 80 Gernreich ensembles including accessories, original sketches, photographs, ephemera, and newly filmed interviews with friends and colleagues.
On Thursday at the Skirball in a “Fashion Foward” panel discussion, fashion designer Humberto Leon, the exhibit’s creative adviser, and LGBTQ activist-prolific songwriter Justin Tranter will discuss Gernreich’s influence and fashion’s impact on personal freedom, inclusion, and diversity.
“He pushed the cultural boundaries with art,” Tranter, who identifies as gender non-conforming, told Q Voice News. “Fashion, sitcoms, and pop music can push things forward without people realizing it.
“He had the mission of freeing the world from boundaries with his art,” Tranter said. “I try to live my life that way. I don’t always succeed.”
On the runway, Gernreich was innovative and dynamic. He introduced unisex designs, the first thong bathing suit, and the top less monokini.
The Mattachine Society
Out of the closet, Gernreich, and his then boyfriend, Harry Hay, were founding members in 1950 of The Mattachine Society. The Silver Lake-based collective was one of the earliest groups in the United States fighting for gay rights for men.
Gernreich, who died in 1985 at the age of 62 from lung cancer, explained his boundary pushing fashion sense in a 1971 quote.
“Fashion is not expected to be a social message,” Gernreich said. “A designer is not expected to say something other than, ‘Here is another dress.’ But I would not be in this if that were the only thing required of me.”