Monday, June 19, 2006

Oleg Cassini

Most people know who Oleg Cassini is- I mean most by the fashion-conscious people. For those who don't- Oleg Cassini was an American fashion designer - who outfitted Jackie Kennedy (among other actresses). And that's quite a big deal, dressing Jacqueline Kennedy- Jackie O was unargueably the most fashion-forward first lady in America to have ever...existed, really. Oleg has been characterized as a knock-off artist (imitating Parisian designs) and has also been characterized as debonair man who was actually quite the playboy (was married Gene Tierney, engaged to Grace Kelly). Unfortunately, he passed away earlier this year on March 17, 2006. [I so wish I could have met him]


On the choice of Cassini being picked to create Jackie's look-

"The fashion establishment was shocked, Women’s Wear Daily journalist John Fairchild wrote in his 1965 book 'The Fashionable Savages.' 'Everyone was surprised,' he wrote. 'Oleg Cassini had been around for years. He was debonair, amusing, social, but none of the fashion intellectuals had considered him an important designer.'" (video clip also on-

On his accomplishments- as written on :

"Fashion historians credit Cassini with numerous design accomplishments- the sheath, the A-line, the little white collar dress, the knit and the military look for women."

What most people don't know is that Oleg Cassini championed faux fur designs. But what affected him to do so? Once, he made a leopard coat for Jackie O, and the look became so popular that over 250,000 leopards died because of the new demand to have the animals as look-a-like coats.

"Many years ago, I did a fur coat for Jackie Kennedy. I suggested leopard to her. She loved the idea because those kinds of looks had not been seen for a long time,'' Cassini, 85, says. 'It was an instant success in the fashion world. But it had a horrendous result in the world of leopards.' Cassini was so shocked when 250,000 leopards were killed worldwide as the trend he started spread, he never used real fur again." (

"The other ladies wore fur coats, and they looked like bears," Cassini recalled years later. "Two-hundred-fifty thousand leopards were killed...I regret it."

One could say that that was a big push behind the skins industry- since it was- but a like-wise scenario may have happened later, except with a different designer- even if he was not the one to make such a popular item; one could also argue that at least Oleg tried to correct the movements he set in motion:

He created Evolutionary Fur. Made when "an artist scans a photo or drawing of an animal into a computer, which creates a digital simulation of the fur. The computer then maps a formula, the fabric is woven by machinery, and the look of fur is perfectly matched. By closely mimicking an animal's coat, the deep pile fabric made with both long guard hairs and short fur with an insulating undercoat, it keeps a person toasty on the coldest of days. Actually, this synthetic look-alike is warmer than an animal's fur with no animals having suffered in the process."


"Is it possible to allow millions of creatures to suffer the way they do? Because it is not death that is frightening, the frightening thing is the way they die," asked Cassini who spoke to large audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "The motto is don't dress to kill."

True, true. Couldn't say it better myself.

Oleg had even stated, "I would never call them [Evolutionary fur] fake furs. The very name denotes a cheapness." (The Columbian- "It's Not Fake Fur--It's Faux")

Along with being compassionate he was an animal lover- he shared his Oyster Bay estate with a myraid of pets, some including"eighteen dogs, fifteen cats, thirty goats, six sheep, one half-ton sow, two Vietnamese potbellied pigs, one donkey, two parrots, twenty-two full-size horses, and two miniature horses." (

What sparked this Oleg Cassini post is that a few days ago I suddenly got this Oleg Cassini high- I was looking online at Nordstroms, and I saw this Oleg Cassini dress- which sent me into a tizzy. I was thinking, Oleg Cassini? What? How can this be? He still has items out? Holy cow- I must go looking for more!

And that is how I uncovered stashes of apparel on the internet that sent me swooning. You must understand! To put it tersely and sadly- Oleg is no longer with us- which means to own his design is just...I don't know...I think it's pretty magnificent. And if you can- you should at least make an investment-his clothes won't stay around for long... and if you don't, a few years down the line you'll look back and you'll think, "Darn...I wish I bought that Oleg Cassini dress when I had the chance."

This is the Nordstrom dress. It's on sale (40% you need even more incentive?) plus it has a bubble hem. When is kind of on the trend considering, you go my darling- and quick- before all the sizes are gone.

In Order: Nordstrom Dress , SmartBargains 1 ($50), OxygenBookClub Dress ($50), SmartBargains 2 ($50), All Lord & Taylor Dresses

And of course...there's always Ebay. (remember- vintage Oleg; reuse, recycle- all that stuff.)

My point can own a piece of rather, his design and brainchild. How imminent is all this? Rather imminent...I saw a gorgeous brown embroidered dress of his on Lord and Taylor's yesterday- I checked today to put the link up- and lo and behold- it's already gone!

I will leave you on this note (

"In his 1995 book, 'A Thousand Days of Magic, Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House,' Cassini recalled a constant sense of urgency during the White House years. 'All I remember about those days are nerves, and Jackie on the phone: 'Hurry, hurry, Oleg, I’ve got nothing to wear,' he wrote."

I think the same thing sometimes. Along with don't dress to kill. Or don't dress to support the industry that kills.


[btw. anyone see the Behind the Scenes at Chanel Cruise 2006/7? it's pretty funny. especially the bischon and the way Karl flips through that newspaper:]

(you can see samples of oleg's work at

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