Partner Oreste Pucciani
Los Angeles City College, 855 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029, Stati Uniti
Rudolf "Rudi" Gernreich (August 8, 1922 – April 21, 1985) was an Austrian-born American fashion designer whose avant-garde clothing designs are generally regarded as the most innovative and dynamic fashion of the 1960s. He purposefully used fashion design as a social statement to advance sexual freedom, producing clothes that followed the natural form of the female body, freeing them from the constraints of high fashion. Despite these earlier efforts, the Mattachine Society, established in Los Angeles in 1951, was the first homosexual rights organization to achieve a national following and make substantive strides in challenging the widespread assumption that homosexuals deserved the discrimination they received. Although Harry Hay is generally credited as the founder of Mattachine, C. Todd White has meticulously detailed the early history of the organization and argues that it was a substantial group effort between Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, and (joining the group slightly later) Konrad Stevens and James Gruber.
He was the first to use cutouts, vinyl, and plastic in clothing. He designed the first thong bathing suit, unisex clothing, the first swimsuit without a built-in bra, the minimalist, soft, transparent No Bra, and the topless monokini. He was a four-time recipient of the Coty American Fashion Critics Award. He produced what is regarded as the first fashion video, Basic Black: William Claxton w/Peggy Moffitt, in 1966. He had a long, unconventional, and trend-setting career in fashion design.
He was a founding member of and financially supported the early activities of the Mattachine Society. He consciously pushed the boundaries of acceptable fashion and used his designs as an opportunity to comment on social issues and to expand society's perception of what was acceptable.
Gernreich became a U.S. citizen in 1943. He met Communist Harry Hay in July 1950, and the two became lovers. Hay showed Gernreich The Call, a document outlining his plan for a gay support organization, and Gernreich told him, "You know that I'm an Austrian refugee. This is the most dangerous thing I have ever read. And, yes, I'm with you 100 percent." In 1951 Gernreich was arrested and convicted in a police homosexual entrapment case, which was common in Southern California at that time.
Gernreich was a founding member of and an enthusiastic financial supporter of the Mattachine Society, though privately, preferring to be known by the initial "R". Gernreich ended the relationship with Hay in 1952.
In 1953, Gernreich met Oreste Pucciani, future chairman of the UCLA French department, who was a key figure in bringing Jean-Paul Sartre to the attention of American educators. Oreste Pucciani was also a pivotal figure in the gay rights movement. The two men kept their relationship private as Gernreich believed public acknowledgment of his homosexuality would negatively affect his fashion business.
Gernreich never announced his sexual orientation. Moffit said, "He just thought his sexuality was obvious." Gernreich typically wore a toupee, Gucci loafers, and jumpsuits with industrial zippers and drove a white Bentley around West Hollywood where he lived with Pucciani until he died. Gernreich was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 1985 and died on April 21, 1985 at age 62. Oreste Pucciani, Gernreich's partner for 31 years, endowed a trust in their name for the American Civil Liberties Union in 1988.
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