Rational Beauty

Bonnie Cashin

Have you ever studied a person in a photograph and imagined that they must have had an exciting and marvelous life? When I look at pictures of Bonnie Cashin (1915-2000), Californian-born designer, that’s what comes to my mind. She looks like she is having fun even when she was working. I love her whimsical childhood drawings of the La La Girls. Legend has it helped her secure her first job as a costume designer.

In her day Cashin shunned Parisian couturiers that was widely accepted as the arbiters of global fashion. She created practical but stylish lightweight separates that could be layered and adapted to the modern woman’s lifestyle. Her clothes transitioned from season to season, city to country and day to night. Her pragmatic but stylish design popularized the notion that woman could be chic without sacrificing comfort. She is indeed a pioneer designer in creating ready-to-wear fashion. She is also known for turning Coach from a men’s wallet company to an innovative handbag company during the 60’s.

Her design approach and fresh aesthetics made her alluring for many companies. She freelanced for companies like American Airlines, Samsonite, Bergdorf Gooman, White Stag to Hermes.

Constantly globetrotting around the world she found inspiration in her travels. You see it in her designs and her home. This quote from Cashin sums it up nicely for me. “My interests are people and how they look. I remember the way a fisherman wore his shirt in Portofino—the odd chic of the beige and white starched habit of a little nun in Spain—the straw hat of a man riding a donkey in Rhodes—a man’s wedding scarf in India—the elegant drape of a panung in Bangkok.”

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“My interests are people and how they look. I remember the way a fisherman wore his shirt in Portofino—the odd chic of the beige and white starched habit of a little nun in Spain—the straw hat of a man riding a donkey in Rhodes—a man’s wedding scarf in India—the elegant drape of a panung in Bangkok.”
— Bonnie Cashin

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