This week Innovative womenswear designer Mona Thalheimer unveiled (or perhaps that should be unravel) a commemorative scarf in honour of what would have been legendary Australian-born American designer Rudi Gernreich’s 100th birthday.
Gernreich, whose revolutionary avant-garde clothing and bathing suit designs still strike a chord today – his famous breast-baring monokini probably wouldn’t get past Instagram’s notorious nipple ban – was born on August 8, 1922.
A pioneer of the 1950s and 1960s, Gernreich’s designs were irreverent, forward-thinking and arguably a pre-curser to 2022’s body-positivity movement. In 1971, he proclaimed that:
In the new environment of the future, people will accept their bodies. Clothes will be utilitarian, organic, and minimal. It will free us to think of more important things
Gernreich was also a founding member of the Mattachine Society, an early national gay rights organisation in the United States. He passed away in 1985 at the Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Reflecting on Gernreich’s incredible legacy, Thalheimer commented:
Rudi Gernreich had such an amazing influence on my career. [He] was my inspiration when I was beginning my career in the early 1970s and I feel compelled to celebrate his 100th anniversary in a way that I hope would make him proud.
Mona Thalheimer made history as America’s first deaf fashion designer and manufacturer in the late 1980s. Her creations captivated the luxury market and it wasn’t long before she was spotted on the floor at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Thalheimer’s collection of classic shirts and shirt dresses reflects timelessness and elegance. Her garments are sustainably and responsibly sewn in Los Angeles and made with rich, Japanese cottons.
Today, she is considered by her peers to be a ‘designer’s designer’ and she credits Gernreich with helping her to become a fashion trailblazer in her own right.
Rudy taught me to believe who I want to be – and that a deaf person could design regardless of disability.
Thailheimer first met Gernreich when she was just 11 years old, recalling that even then “he valued my opinion in fashion. Rudi always believed in everyone's human potential.”
Thalheimer’s design for the commemorative scarf is based on Gernreich’s dedication to protecting human rights and liberties, a message that resonates with Americans now more than ever following recent Supreme Court decisions.
The scarf was unveiled at a ceremony on August 22nd, at The Gemini G.E.L Gallery in West Hollywood. The ceremony will feature Mona Thalheimer and Minouche Kandel, Senior Staff Attorney, LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, ACLU of Southern California.
Gernreich’s estate is managed by ACLU of Southern California, which will benefit from the sale of the scarf.
As America's first deaf fashion designer and manufacturer, Mona Thalheimer made history when she launched her signature line in 1987. She soon found herself on the racks of Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Fred Segal, thanks to the popularity of her pieces.
Today, she presents a collection of exquisite shirts and shirt dresses that reflect timelessness and elegance. The designer's designer is her peers' expression of admiration.