“Fashion anticipates … elegance is a state of mind.”
He was born in Pairs the son of a Russian Count and an Italian Countess. As a child he moved from Paris to Florence Italy where his mother opened her own design house. “I had to change my taste from caviar to linguini” He quipped later. As a young man he fled Italy after winning a duel arriving in New York in 1936 “with only a tuxedo, two tennis rackets and talent.”
(VERONICA LAKE IN “I WANTED WINGS”)
By the time he appeared in Hollywood in the early 40’s his talent at tennis lead him to a meeting with the head of Paramount studios who was looking for a new designer for his studio. The first film he designed for was the famous “I Wanted Wings” staring Veronica Lake and her peek-a-boo hairdo, which he claimed to invent. Some of his other films were, “The Razor’s Edge”, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and “The Shanghai Gesture” all staring his soon to be wife Gene Tierney. Over his lengthy career he designed for films such stars as Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe all the way to contemporary luminaries such as Kim Basinger and Taylor Swift. All of this would be enough to put him in the ranks of the greats yet the greatest achievements were yet to come.
(WITH WIFE NO.2 GENE TIERNEY 1948)
After World War II he opened a ready to wear design house in New York while still working in Hollywood. In 1961 he was appointed by Jacqueline Kennedy as her personal couturier for her new position as First Lady of the United States of America. He created a look for her that was international and timeless which resonates today as the look of Camelot. “All I remember about those days are nerves, and Jackie on the phone ‘Hurry, hurry, Oleg, I’ve got nothing to wear’,” (She loved French haute couture but was told that as first lady she would be wise to wear only American designs.) “I dressed Jackie to be a star in a major film, which she was, the most famous first lady of all time. I became her secretary of style”.
(SKETCH BY OLEG CASSINI OF HIS MOST FAMOUS CLIENT.)
In his time he married a movie star and had a famous affair with another star who would one day break her engagement to him to become her serine highness Princess Grace of Monaco. He created a look so classic that it is emulated by many today and he was the innovator of designer licensing. He brought color to men’s dress shirts. Vibrant hues where before only white was allowed. He was in all essence the very first modern superstar American designer. He was the great Oleg Cassini.
(SHE DUMPED THE SON OF A COUNT & COUNTESS FOR A PRINCE)
(THE INAGURAL GOWN 1960)
One of the other things Oleg Cassini did in his pursuit to leave no stone un-turned was to create a few fragrances. One of which is Cassini for Men introduced in 1994. This is an Oriental Woody that opens brilliantly with notes of chamomile, mandarin orange, exotic apricot like osmanthus, basil and Brazilian rosewood. This rush of delight lasts about ten to fifteen minutes and it is really a glorious promise of things to come. The middle notes are sadly short-lived and the promise dies on the vine, Lavender, jasmine, lemon verbena and geranium become a muddle and die within an hour. The base notes for me barely make an appearance. The sandalwood is nil, with only traces of amber, musk and vanilla. The vetiver and incense for me never got a chance to dance by the time the ball was over. At best it could be used as an after bath or shower spritz. Within two hours the entire fragrance disappeared like a carnival in the night with the town sheriff in hot pursuit.
It is really a shame to see such a gorgeous presentation wither like the sunburned petals of a morning glory. For truly the bottle is a glamorous deco creation worthy of any star dressing room. But like too many Hollywood dreams it is made of smoke and mirrors and is forgotten by the time the lights come up.
“St. Francis of Assisi has always been an inspiration to me. He was a playboy, too.” Oleg Cassini
TWO SILVER STARS **