Arnold Scaasi (1930-2015)

Coat by Arnold Scaasi, c. 1964

Evening coat by Arnold Scaasi, c. 1964

Arnold Isaacs was born May 8, 1930 in Montreal. Although he was the son of a furrier, he attributed his interest in becoming a fashion designer to his Chanel and Schiaparelli wearing aunt Ida. Arnold studied fashion at the Cotnoir-Capponi School of Design in Montreal, spending his last year at the Chambre Syndicale in Paris before apprenticing at Paquin. He then went to the U.S. where he worked for Charles James and took designing jobs on the side.

Working on his own by 1956, he reversed the letters in his last name from the Jewish garment district sounding last name of Isaacs into the chic Italian-sounding last name of Scaasi. Two years later, he received a Coty Award for achievement in creative design.

Matching evening dress in reverse colours, c. 1964

Matching evening dress in reverse colours, c. 1964

In July 1962 Scaasi met his life partner Parker Ladd in Central Park, although Scaasi often altered the story by saying they met at a party. They were often a part of the social circuit in New York, as well as Palm Beach and Capri where Scaasi met and nurtured his client list. Over the years Scaasi dressed six first ladies: Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Hilary Clinton and Barbara and Laura Bush. He also made clothes for Barbra Striesand, Joan Rivers, Barbara Walters, Mitzi Gaynor, as well as a long list of New York and Washington socialites. Although Scaasi counted many of his clients as friends, he also rubbed a lot of people the wrong way due to his pushy, pompous, and temperamental personality.

In 1964, when most couturiers were focusing on ready-to-wear to make ends meet, Scaasi ceased his off-the-rack line to focus on custom work, although he restarted a ready-to-wear line in the 1980s. In 2009 Scaasi sold off his archives, offering several sample garments from his 1980s ready to wear line to museums across the U.S. and Canada.

Scaasi died in New York of cardiac arrest August 5.

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