Oleg Cassini Loiewski (April 11, 1913-March 17, 2006) was a French-born American fashion designer. He was hugely influential in the fashion world, designing such ubiquitous styles as the A-line, the Sheath dress, and the Empire Strapless dress. His most notable moment was his stint as Jacqueline Kennedy's "Secretary of Style," though he contributed heavily to costume design on Broadway, television, and film.
Cassini was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. His maternal grandfather served as minister to China and later to the United States. His father held the title of count, and was a diplomat. Cassini's family fled Russia after the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution, leaving behind most of their wealth. As a child of nobility, Cassini grew up learning to ride, play piano, and play tennis. He also developed a flare for designing costumes for mascarade parties. He attended the University of Florence from 1931-1934, and soon after received an apprenticeship with Parisian designer Jean Patou.
Oleg Cassini with Gene Tierney
Cassini with Grace Kelly
Cassini moved to New York in 1936 with only $100 in his pocket. But he found it difficult to survive on little money, and ended up playing tennis tournaments to earn money. It was at one of those tournaments that he met an executive at Paramount Pictures, who ultimately hired him as a costume designer. He designed costumes for many stars, including Veronica Lake, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney, and Natalie Wood. Some of the films he did costumes for included The Shanghai Gesture (1941), Tales of Manhattan (1942), The Razor's Edge (1946), and many more.
The Shanghai Gesture (1941)
Cassini with Gene Tierney
He took a hiatus from his fashion career after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he enlisted to serve in the United States Coast Guard. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army as a cavalry officer, where he served alongside Ronald Reagan.
When he returned from the war, he found enough investors to open a business. His work was so well-received that soon he was able to pay back his investors and become the sole owner of his business. In 1960, he had established himself in the fashion world. His friendship with John F. Kennedy resulted in his being entrusted with the role of Jacqueline Kennedy's official personal designer. One of his signature pieces was Jacqueline's pillbox hat, which completed almost all of her ensembles. He was called her "Secretary of Style."
Oleg Cassini with Jackie Kennedy
After his work with the Kennedys ended, his work lost much of its place in the spotlight. He transitioned into designing for licensed products.
Beyond the A-line, Sheath dresses, and Empire Strapless necklines, some of his most notable contributions to the design world include deep tonal dress shirts for men and multi-colored tennis wear.
- Birthday Date: Friday, 11 April 2014