Cultural Touchstone: Peggy Moffitt
No one embodies the spirit of Mod quite like Peggy Moffitt, L.A.'s own 1960s-era muse.
Moffitt, model and collaborator with modernist designer Rudi Gernreich, appears in a number of memorable images from the period, including this black-and-white gem from “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” the 1966 cult French film by director and photographer William Klein that is a satirical send-up of the fashion industry. Seated at the far left, Moffitt, plays herself. She appears in only two scenes in the film, including this one, depicting a group of young models dressed in stripes, against a backdrop of stripes, applying their Kabuki-like makeup.
We caught up with Moffitt, 72, to discuss the photograph, which was undoubtedly tacked to a number of designer inspiration boards for the spring fashion season and its embrace of graphic style.
“I think I met William Klein the second day I was in Paris,” says Moffitt, who modeled in Europe in the 1950s and ‘60s. “He asked me to be in the film, and I was sorta dragging my heels because I didn’t want to be in another film that put down fashion. I was convinced to do it eventually, and it was amusing. I didn’t see the film for years and years because by the time it came out, I was back in the U.S., and it was kind of an underground movie. I didn’t actually see it until a couple of years ago. And you know, I think the most famous thing about the movie is that picture. It’s a wonderful picture, and he’s a wonderful photographer.”
Moffitt has a signed copy of the photograph hanging on the wall in her home. “My husband [the late photographer William Claxton] bought it for me one year for Christmas.”
The stripes and checks on the runways at Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton are certainly reminiscent of the photograph and the graphic quality of Gernreich’s work. And Moffitt approves. “It’s good design. It’s aesthetically strong and pure. I think that was the appeal then, and that’s the appeal now.”
In fact, Moffitt has never stopped wearing Gernreich’s designs. She owns more than 300 pieces, some of which were featured in “The Total Look,” last year’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the Pacific Design Center, which explored her creative collaboration with Gernreich.
She owns the legal rights to all of the late designer’s creations and is working with potential investors to relaunch the Gernreich brand. “That I am still wearing his clothes 50 years later is as good a recommendation for someone’s talent as any,” she says. “The times have changed, but his clothes still hold up for the way we live today.”