Wednesday, February 01, 2012


One of the reasons we haven't been blogging this week is that it's pre-Oscar chaos AND I am very excited to be curating THE TOTAL LOOK. READ ABOUT IT BELOW and Eri promises to write a sexy blog about the fabulous Hermes Market bags that came in yesterday...

LOS ANGELES—The Museum of Contemporary Art presents:
The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich,
Peggy Moffitt, and William Claxton

on view from
February 26 through May 20, 2012,
at the MOCA Pacific Design Center.

The exhibition will celebrate the remarkable collaboration between the great fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, his model and muse Peggy Moffitt, and Moffitt’s late husband, the photographer William Claxton, who created thedistinctive images of Moffitt activating Gernreich’s designs. The exhibition will feature selected looks from Moffitt’s definitive collection, with films and photographs by Claxton of Moffitt modeling the clothes.

Members’ Opening
Friday, March 2, 7–9pm
MOCA Pacific Design Center

“Fashion will go out of fashion” is one of Gernreich’s many memorable declarations, but his designs continue to resonate, looking contemporary 50 years after they were made. Gernreich told Moffittabout a dream he had shortly before his death in 1985. “I had a dream last night that I was in agraveyard and I saw my own tombstone. I went up to it and it said, ‘He was always 10 years ahead of his time.’”

“He was wrong of course,” Moffitt recalled. “He was always 30 years ahead of his time.” Gernreich, Moffitt, and Claxton were central figures in the Los Angeles art community in the 1960s and ‘70s, and were known for their friendships and collaborations with other artists. Gernreich’s work incorporates and prefigures many of the innovations of pop, minimal, and performance art.

The introduction of his famous topless swimsuit in 1964 became one of the first instances of art and design being transformed into a worldwide media event. Moffitt has written that Gernreich “invented the modern way of dressing for the latter half of the twentieth century just as Chanel had done for the earlier part of the century,” and that “he was also the first designer since Dior to become a household name.”

In December 1967, he became one of the first fashion designers to appear on the cover of "TIME" magazine, which described him as “the most way-out, far-ahead designer in the U.S.”
"The New York Times", also in 1967, noted that Gernreich was “famous for taking things off or out of clothes.” He developed a natural fusion between person and dress. He was responsible for
numerous innovations that freed women’s fashion and redefined how people dressed.

Among his many inventions are the unisex look, clothes based on leotards and tights, see-through clothes and the "No Bra" bra. Gernreich was also the first to use vinyl and plastic and cutouts or “portholes” in clothes, and was responsible for one of the first adaptations of “street fashion” to high fashion. Many of Gernreich’s most brilliant inventions, like the thong, have become part of social and cultural history as well as fashion history.

Rudi Gernreich (b. 1922, Vienna, Austria; d. 1985, Los Angeles)
arrived in Los Angeles as a refugee in 1938 at the age of 16, six months after the Anschluss. His first job in the United States was as an assistant at a mortuary. Commenting on this experience, Gernreich recalled that he “grew up overnight.” “There I was with all those dead bodies,” he said. “Eventually I got used to the corpses. But I do smile sometimes when people tell me my clothes are so body-conscious I must have studied anatomy. You bet I studied anatomy!” Gernreich studied art at Los Angeles City College, worked in the publicity department at RKO Studios, and once replaced a friend as a sketch artist for costume designer Edith Head.

After watching a performance by Martha Graham’s modern dance company, he abandoned art to study with the choreographer Lester Horton, whom Gernreich described as “a kind of West Coast Martha Graham.” As Marylou Luther wrote in the introduction to Moffitt and Claxton’s book on Gernreich, “he became less interested in the static details of clothes and more concerned with how they looked in motion.”

Gernreich remained engaged with the dance community
and later designed costumes for Bella Lewitzky, one of his fellow dancers in the Horton company, but by the late forties, he had returned to fashion design. Drawing on his experience with dance, Gernreich predicted that “the aesthetics of fashion are going to involve the body itself. We will train the body to grow beautifully rather than cover it to produce beauty.”

After a short period on Seventh Avenue,
where he became disappointed by the way the fashion business looked to Paris rather than America for inspiration, he returned to Los Angeles. Working for sportswear and swimwear manufacturers like Walter Bass and Westwood Knitting Mills, Gernreich started to receive recognition and awards for innovations such as the first knitted tube dress and the first unconstructed swimsuit, but he was frustrated by the required commercial compromises. Gernreich solidified his stature as one of the preeminent independent American designers when he started his own company in 1960.

Peggy Moffitt (b. 1937) was Gernreich’s favorite model and muse.
Her profound dialogue with Gernreich enabled her to embody his design aesthetic, not just to model it but to perform it. Her unique modern look and her innovations in the art of modeling continue to inspire a younger generation and have made her a fashion icon.

William Claxton (b. 1927, Pasadena; d. 2008, Los Angeles),
America’s preeminent jazz photographer, who is also known for his celebrity/personality photographs and album cover designs, was married to Moffitt. He began photographing Gernreich’s work in 1957 and documented every single collection from 1962.
Claxton’s film, Basic Black: William Claxton w/ Peggy Moffitt (1967),
which will be featured in the exhibition, is considered the forerunner of fashion film.

The exhibition also celebrates the collaboration between
Gernreich, Moffitt, Claxton, and the legendary hair designer Vidal Sassoon. Moffitt met Sassoon at a photo shoot for the "No Bra" bra at Richard Avedon’s studio in 1965 and later introduced him to Gernreich. Sassoon’s modern hair design became a key element in Moffitt’s unique look and Gernreich’s distinctive “total look.”

The exhibition will be curated by Cameron Silver, the fashion historian and founder of Decades, in collaboration with curatorial coordinators Ethel Seno and Jhordan Dahl. Christopher Claxton, the son of Moffitt and Claxton and the Director of the Claxton Archive has helped to coordinate the presentation of the photographs and films. The exhibition will be designed by Marmol Radziner.

The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration Between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt, and William
Claxton is presented by M·∙A·∙C Cosmetics.

“The partnership between these three creative forces created a visually distinct period in fashion
and beauty that still resonates and inspires today. As the backstage makeup authority, supporting nearly 230 runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, M·∙A·∙C is proud to be a part of this exhibit,” said John Demsey, Group President, The Estée Lauder Companies.

Additional support is provided by Dr. Gabriel Chiu - Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, Inc.,
Matthias Kind, Sally and Michel Perrin - Perrin Paris 1893, and Eugene Sadovoy.
The care and restoration of the collection is generously provided by Margaret's Cleaners.
The mannequins are generously provided by CNL Mannequins.

Generous support for MOCA Pacific Design Center is provided by Charles S. Cohen.

Founded in 1979, MOCA’s mission is to be the defining museum of contemporary art. The institution has achieved astonishing growth in its brief history—with three Los Angeles locations of architectural renown; more than 13,500 members; a world-class permanent collection of nearly 6,000 works international in scope and among the finest in the nation; hallmark education programs that are widely emulated; award-winning publications that present original scholarship; and groundbreaking monographic, touring, and thematic exhibitions.