Born: Russian parents gave birth to Oleg Loiewski on 11 April 1913 in Paris. A native of Florence, born into a family called Fashion Designer Cassini. In 1936, I immigrated to the United States. In 1942, I became a naturalized citizen. Education: Attended School: English Catholic School, Florence; Accademia Delle Belle Arti, Florence, 1931-34; University of Florence, political science, 1932-34. I served five years with the U.S. Cavalry during the Second World War. Married Merry Fahrney, 1938 (divorced); married actress Gene Tierney, 1941 (divorced, 1952); daughters: Daria, Christina. Career: After working at his mother’s Maison de Couture in Florence, he opened his own Maison de Couture in Rome; a sketch artist at Patou in Paris, 1935; designer for Jo Copeland in New York, 1936; designer for William Bass in 1937, and James Rotherberg Inc. in New York, 1938-39; and New York salon, Oleg Inc. established in 1937-39; established Cassini fashion studios, New York, 1939-40; designer for Paramount Pictures, Los Angeles, 1939-42; designer for Twentieth Century Fox, Los Angeles, 1940; established Cassini Dardick fashion company, New York, 1947-50; appointed official designer to the United States in 1950. The First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy, in early 1960he established a ready-to-wear business in Milin in 1963. Since returning to New York, she has designed tennis clothes for Munsingwear and swimwear under her label for Water clothes, 1974. She introduced a new fragrance line, Cassini, in 1990. Several of Cassini’s designs are on display in the exhibition Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years. Awards: Numerous awards, including five first prizes from the Mostra Della Moda in Turin in 1934; an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the International College of Fine Arts in Miami, 1989; and the American Society of Perfumers Living Legend Award in 2001. While Oleg Cassini has had a diverse, glamorous, and exotic career, he is perhaps best known for the style and clothing he developed as the official designer of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961. Together with his friend Mrs. Kennedy, he created many widely copied garments that became American fashion classics and established Kennedy as a style leader.
Halston often topped the First Lady’s famous pillbox hats with fawn wool two-piece outfits, a dress, and a semifitted waistcoat or jacket with a removable collar made of Russian sable. One of the most popular outfits was a high-necked silk ottoman empire-line gown that gently flared with an A-line to the floor. With Kennedy’s wide exposure, Cassini’s profile was boosted greatly, as was American fashion in general.
Count Cassini was raised in Florence, where his mother ran an exclusive dress shop, by Italian/Russian parents. Initially, he designed one-off pieces for his mother’s shop to start his career in 1934. In 1936, he moved to New York and worked for several Seventh Avenue manufacturers before joining Twentieth Century Fox in Hollywood as a costume designer in 1940. Creating glamorous clothes for many film stars, including Gene Tierney, against the wishes of the studios, he eventually married one.
The designer opened his ready-to-wear dress firm, Fashion Designer Cassini Inc., in 1950 with $100,000 in funding. His designs were characterized by their femininity, featuring soft, romantic fabrics such as lace, taffeta, and chiffon. A-lines, white-collared dresses, sheaths, knitted suits, and dresses with small waistlines were some of the fashion innovations he popularized. Other features included brass buttons and braids. Cassini’s look became simpler and easier in the 1960s. The straight, lined cocktail dress and evening gown popularized by Jackie Kennedy, as well as his plain, boxy suits, were customer favorites.
In 1963, Cassini retired from his ready-to-wear and couture business and started a ready-to-wear business with his brother Igor. In his debut menswear collection, he introduced color to shirts that had always been white and paired them with traditional three-piece suits.
Having written several books since 1987, beginning with his autobiography In My Fashion, Cassini wrote One Thousand Days of Magic in 1995 about his experiences dressing Jackie Kennedy during her White House years. Cassini toured the country in support of the 217-page book. However, Cassini remained active in fashion; in 1997, the designer and an investment group prepared to acquire He-Ro Group Ltd., the manufacturer of Black Tie eveningwear. After the sudden death of He-Ro chairman William J. Carone, the deal to rename the new company Oleg Cassini Group International fell through. The Nah dree Group was formed after He-Ro and Nah Nah Collections were bought and merged, and Cassini was subsequently cut off.
A fake-fur collection launched at a Humane Society fundraiser allowed the veteran designer to bounce back in 1999. Women’s Wear Daily in November 1999 quoted Cassini as saying, “You won’t be able to tell the difference between real fur and faux fur.”
Cassini was entering his 90s at the turn of the century. Through an ever-expanding number of licensing agreements, he exported to over 20 countries. The company produced womenswear, menswear, children swear, and a host of accessories, such as ties, luggage, cosmetics, shoes, umbrellas, and fragrances.
In 2001, six years after the publication of Cassini’s One Thousand Days of Magic and 40 years after he first designed outfits for Jackie Kennedy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition called “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.” The exhibit featured many of Cassini’s creations for the First Lady and brought Fashion Designer Cassini back to prominence.
updated by NellyRhodes