The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
2018/35/15 Tahitian brief and skirt, mens, Pago Pago design in copper, 'Speedo Golden Sands Series Beachwear/Swimwear 1960/61' collection, cotton, designed by Peter Travis for Speedo Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1959-1960. Click to enlarge.

Speedo swimming ensemble designed by Peter Travis

Peter Travis (1929-2016) distinguished himself as a designer, artist and craftsperson, excelling in a wide variety of fields ranging from fashion and textiles to ceramics and kites. Travis designed this playful beachwear set as part of his Golden Sands Series Beachwear/Swimwear 1960-61 collection for Speedo Australia. Inspired by coastlines around the globe, the collection reflects Travis' sophisticated use of colour and design to create innovative products for an emerging segment in the …


Object No.


Object Statement

Tahitian brief and skirt, mens, Pago Pago design in copper, 'Speedo Golden Sands Series Beachwear/Swimwear 1960/61' collection, cotton, designed by Peter Travis for Speedo Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1959-1960

Physical Description

Men's printed cotton brief with abstract design in black, yellow, orange and cream on exterior and green interior lining. V-shape front with elasticised banding at upper thigh. A strap extends from either hip and ties at centre front.

Men's printed cotton skirt with abstract design in black, yellow, orange and cream on exterior and green interior lining. High leg slit on either side with zig zag cut across the hem. Secures with two velcro straps at waist back.



This 'Pago Pago' design Tahitian inspired brief and skirt beachwear set was designed by Peter Travis (1929-2016) for Speedo Australia in 1959-1960. The garments were designed by Peter Travis and manufactured in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Peter Travis is renowned for his design of a swimming trunk, colloquially coined the 'budgie smuggler', that sits on the hips as opposed to the waist and is cut high on the thigh to maximise movement in the water. As Therese Kenyon, Director of the Manly Art Gallery & Museum in 2002 expressed, 'his design ideas were revolutionary at the time because they were consciously more appreciative of the proportions and sensuality of the body. His aim was to design garments that fitted well and enhanced the body, as everyone wanted to look their best on the beach'. Travis did not create drawings, preferring to work directly with the fabric and the cutter, experimenting with the proportions but keeping the silhouettes simple, closely following the line of the body. He developed a collection in terms of ranges with individual pieces that would all work together and could be mixed and matched. A patterned 'Top Rigger' shirt could be matched with plain calf-length 'Beachniks' or with a matching 'Breaker shorts' or the more daring 'Capri brief'. Such an approach gave the customer a greater range of options, whether quiet or brightly patterned colour, in modest or daring styles. The 'cabana'-style swim shorts and shirt sets were also designed to allow men to move from the beach, boat or pool to the street and café without having to change, implying a sophisticated leisure culture.

Travis also transformed the way Speedo marketed its menswear. Before his arrival Speedo sales representatives presented their buyers with roneoed pages that featured listings of the garments, colourways (the colour schemes in which the design was available) and sometimes a swatch of fabric in conjunction with a small range of sample garments. Working with a graphic designer, layout artist and photographer, he drew up sample books with evocative themes like the 'Golden Sands Series' for 1960-61 and 'Seven Seas Collection' for 1961-62. The ranges were featured in pictorial vignettes with swatches of fabrics, prints and colourways carefully laid out alongside photographs of the garments modelled in natural informal settings. He wanted the models to appear natural and would sometimes choose models off the street in preference to more polished professional models.

Travis categorised his customers into three main identities: 'young men say up to about twenty-five or -six whose personality wasn't yet completely formed...and I'd make a second group for those who were successful, knew who they were. They didn't want to be identified with the younger lot, they wanted to have something slightly smarter...and a third, slightly older group whom Travis determined would have wives and children saying, 'Come on, Dad, you've got to get with it.' These groups appear through the sample books making their selection from the combinations offered in each range according to their individual taste and personalities.

Exhibition catalogue essay, 'The Revolution', Manly Art Gallery & Museum, 25 January - 3 March 2002
Glynis Jones, 'Speedo: from underwear to outerwear', in Modern Times: the untold story of Modernism in Australia, ed. Ann Stephen, Philip Goad, Andrea McNamara, Miegunyah Press and Powerhouse Museum, 2008



In an interview with Powerhouse curator, Grace Cochrane in 1988, Travis said his passion for colour was ignited at Balgowlah Primary School in the 1930s, where his teacher, modernist artist Rah Fizelle, painted all the desks in primary colours. However, rather than following his passion for visual design when he first left school, Travis pursued his love of music and studied at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, planning to become a composer and music teacher. Finding it difficult to support himself as a musician, Travis took a job at Farmer's Department Store, initially selling textiles and later becoming a buyer of children's clothes. In 1955, he went into partnership in a clothing business catering to teenage girls. Setting up in an old butcher's shop in Balmain, according to Travis, his label 'Rumpus' was the first in Australia to specifically target teenage girls. Moving away from teenagers being dressed like their mother's, Travis introduced 'mix and match' tops and bottoms in bright primary colours and playful themes. These Rumpus samples were in Peter Travis' possession until the end of his life.

From 1956-58, Travis studied part-time at the National Art School with the highly regarded teacher Phyllis Shillito. Initially, he focussed on industrial design and took the opportunity to work at Phillips Radio Electronics where he designed radios and televisions between 1956 and 1959. He then moved to the Speedo knitwear company, where he worked from 1960-61, with the brief to invigorate Speedo's stodgy menswear lines with Hawaiian-inspired swim and leisurewear ranges for the Australian market. Travis had great success at Speedo, not only reinvigorating the designs, but using new marketing strategies to target specific audiences. In spite of his success, he left to study sculpture fulltime at the National Art School, later transferring to ceramics, where he became the first graduate in the new certificate course in that medium. His work in ceramics was notable for the combination of many small handbuilt or coiled components, or sliced segments of thrown forms cast in a mould. Peter's ceramic works were included in many international and Australian exhibitions from the 1960s onwards. He received a gold medal at the Faenza international competition for contemporary ceramic art in Italy in 1973, and also in that year became a member of the International Academy of Ceramics.

In the late 1960s, Peter began to make colourful kites, which he referred to as aerial sculptures. These featured in many aerial performances such as Australia Day celebrations, Sydney Festivals and events at Bondi Beach, which developed into the Festival of the Winds. He contributed to many international kite workshops, conferences and 'sky performances'. In 1990, he was honoured by being elected to the Hall of Fame in the World Kite Museum in Washington State. In the early 1980s, architects were commissioning him to create colourful aerial sculptures suspended on metal frames to decorate large interior voids. Such sculptures, including four ten story hangings for the Merlin Hotel in Perth and thirty five large works celebrating the completion of St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, were the main focus of his work into the 2000s.

Travis also embraced new technology, receiving grants to study digital design and colour theory overseas. His skill in colour design was acknowledged in the 1980s when he was engaged to advise the architects of new Parliament House, Canberra on the use of colour in the building. He is responsible for the muted reds and greens of the Senate and the House of Representatives which he adapted from the traditional red and green of Westminster to shades representing Australian foliage and earth.

Additionally, Travis was a highly respected teacher whose career spanned over forty years in institutions such as Phyllis Shillito's Design School, the acclaimed Mary White School of Art, the Arts Council of New South Wales, the National Art School and the UNSW School of Art and Design.

Travis' contributions to so many fields of design led to him being made a member of the Order of Australia AM in 2008.

Reference: Grace Cochrane's speech at the Memorial Service for Peter Travis on 22nd February, 2017 at UNSW Art and Design Paddington Campus.


Credit Line

Gift of Graeme Clarke, in memory of Peter Travis, 2018

Acquisition Date

6 April 2018

Cite this Object


Speedo swimming ensemble designed by Peter Travis 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 7 December 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Speedo swimming ensemble designed by Peter Travis |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=7 December 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}