The Digital Journalist

Photograph by William Claxton


Wild colors, wonderful geometric designs, improbable combinations of fabrics and textures in motion, exposed flesh. These were the elements that I encountered when garments designed by Rudi Gernreich first appeared in the viewfinder of my camera. What a turn-on it was for a photographer.

I first met Rudi in 1955 when I walked into his studio at the Walter Bass offices in Beverly Hills. I had seen his sexy swimsuit designs in Sports Illustrated, and I wanted to borrow a few swimsuits for the models I was using for several jazz LP record covers.

Rudi was gracious and kind to this young and brazen photographer. The pictures turned out beautifully. Rudi invited me to a party shortly after that, and we became friends.

A few years later, Peggy began to work for Rudi, first as his fitting model, then appearing in all of his runway shows. The three of us worked together through most of sixteen years of Gernreich collections. Peggy's unique and original modeling style added tremendously to the drama of his designs. Invariably we shot every collection against a seamless white background, thus emphasizing the beauty of the work. It was during one of these sessions that Peggy stepped behind Rudi for this impromptu portrait.

In 1964 Rudi created the "topless swimsuit" design, and after much consideration, Peggy modeled the famous swimsuit for my photographs only. Rudi had made an important social statement about the beauty of women, and Peggy insisted that we keep it on that level. Needless to say, Rudi Gernreich became known to the entire world as the "bad boy of fashion."

Rudi's work reflected his wit and his appreciation of sensuality. He was a great designer and a very good friend. There never was and probably never will be a fashion designer as original as Rudi, and I was fortunate to catch a great deal of his creativity on film.

You can buy The Rudi Gernreich Book on

Books by William Claxton
along with many others, are
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