Canadian Fashion Connection – Arnold Scaasi

US Vogue, December 1955 with Scaasi design on cover

Arnold Scaasi began life as Arnold Isaacs on May 8, 1930 in Montreal. After studying fashion design at the Cotnoir-Capponi School of Design and the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne in Paris he apprenticed at the House of Paquin before moving to New York to work with Charles James.

During a photo shoot of one of Arnold Isaac’s designs he met Robert Denning, who suggested he reverse the letters in his last name to give it an Italian flair. Shortly after he became Arnold Scaasi, one of his designs appeared on the December 1955 cover of Vogue. The following year Scaasi started a ready-to-wear line and in 1958 he won a Coty Fashion Critics Award.

Scaasi gown and matching coat, c. 1965-66, from the collection of the Fashion History Museum

Scaasi was in the same age group of designers as Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene, rising to fame in the New York fashion world when Seventh Avenue was under the lead of Norell and Trigere.

In 1964, when couture was on its last legs, Scaasi opened a couture salon catering to New York socialites and Hollywood celebrities. He was the ‘Marchesa’ of his day – known for glamorous evening gowns and cocktail wear. In 1968, he became internationally famous for making an evening ensemble for Barbara Striesand that became sheer under the camera lights as Streisand went on stage to accept her Academy Award for Funny Girl.

Scaasi was presented with the Council of Fashion Designers of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 – the same year he authored Scaasi: A Cut Above, published by Rizzoli.

 

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