Born April 11, 1913, Oleg Cassini was brought up by noble Italian/Russian parents in Florence, where his mother ran an exclusive dress shop. He studied political science but went to work for his mother before moving to Paris in 1935 to work as a sketch artist for Patou and then on to America in 1936 to work as a design assistant to Jo Copeland in New York. After several jobs at various Seventh Avenue dress manufacturers, Cassini headed to Hollywood in 1940 to work as a costume designer at Paramount and Twentieth-Century Fox. He met and married actress Gene Tierney in 1941 – they divorced in 1952. Cassini was then engaged to Grace Kelly and took much credit for creating her signature style while they were together.
Oleg Cassini founded his ready-to-wear dress firm in New York in 1950. His look was pared down simplicity but feminine. He was well established as a leading New York couturier and designer when Jacqueline Kennedy, a frequent customer who wore Cassini’s boxy jacket suits and slim evening clothes, appointed him as the official designer to the First Lady.
Cassini closed his existing businesses in 1963, but took on new ventures in partnership with his brother Igor. He began a menswear collection and became known for popularizing coloured shirts for business attire. Over the years he designed a variety of collections ranging from a line of tennis clothes for Munsingwear to a faux fur collection to support the Humane Society of America. His autobiography ‘In My Own Fashion’ was published in 1987, and in 1995 he also wrote a memoir entitled ‘A Thousand Days of Magic’ about dressing Jacqueline Kennedy during her White House years.
Oleg Cassini died March 17, 2006.