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Bonnie Cashin (September 28, ca. 1908– February 3, 2000) was an influential American designer and is considered one of the pioneering designers of American sportswear. She created practical, uncomplicated clothing that catered to the independent woman of the post-war era.
Cashin was born on September 28, 1915, in Oakland, California to Carl Cashin, a photographer and inventor, and Eunice Cashin. The family lived in several towns in northern California during Cashin's early years, and in each her mother would open a custom dress shop. In a 1973 interview, Cashin explained her interest in fashion: "My mother was a dressmaker and before I could write I could sew."
From L.A. to Broadway
Cashin's career began soon after high school when she joined a Los Angeles ballet company as its designer. In 1934, she moved to New York to work for the Roxy Theater, where she created three costume changes a week for each of the theater's 24 dancers. Variety is reported to have described her as, at 19, "the youngest designer to ever hit Broadway."
After the U.S. entered World War II, Cashin designed uniforms for women in the armed forces.
In 1943, Cashin but returned to Hollywood and costume design. She joined 20th Century Fox and created clothes for about sixty films including Laura (1944), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1946).
Cashin enjoyed the work in Hollywood, explaining: ''I wasn't designing for fashion, but for characteristics, which is the way I like to design clothes for daily wear. I like to design clothes for a woman who plays a particular role in life, not simply to design clothes that follow a certain trend, or that express some new silhouette.''
In Hollywood, Cashin married Disney illustrator Robert Sterner. The marriage soon ended in divorce.
Ready to wear
Cashin was the first designer chosen for Patterns of The Times, American Designer Series, a monthly feature in The New York Times during the 1950's that made designer patterns available for home sewing.
In 1962, Cashin was hired as Coach’s first designer. She designed for the company until 1974. Her classic designs in the early 1960s included the shoulder bag and a clutch-style purse with a removable shoulder strap.
Cashin was inducted into the Coty American Fashion Critics Hall of Fame in 1972.
In 1979, she established the Innovative Design Fund awards, a nonprofit organization based in New York that gave up to $10,000 to designers with original ideas in home furnishings, textiles and fashion so they could transform their sketches into marketable products.
Towards the end of her life, Cashin began working with historian Stephanie Lake. In 2016, Lake published the monograph Bonnie Cashin: Chic is Where You Find It.
Cashin died on February 3, 2000 in New York City.
Her use of leather, mohair and hardware was pioneering and the brass turnlocks that kept the top of her 1940s convertible down became a signature feature of Coach handbags.
Cashin was famous for her dog leash skirt: a long wool garment that could be instantly shortened by latching a small brass ring sewn at the bottom to a small brass clasp sewn into the waistline. In an interview with National Public Radio, Cashin explained the origin of the skirt. "My studio, out in the country, in Briarcliff, in the old carriage house, had steps that went up to a second floor. And I was constantly holding my skirts going up. I entertained a lot. And I'd be running up stairs with a martini in my hand. And so I thought I'd better hitch my skirt permanently."
Posthumous trademark controversy
In 2012, Cashin protégé Stephanie Lake filed an application in the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2012 to obtain the Cashin trademark, which had never been registered. It was approved by the trademark office the next year, pending opposition. Coach and the trustees of the Bonnie Cashin Foundation opposed the trademark.
As of May 2016, the trademark issue remained unresolved.
- Nemy, Enid (2000-02-05). "Bonnie Cashin, Who Helped Introduce Sportswear to Americans, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- Good Housekeeping. Hearst Corp. 1973-01-01.
- Carnes, Mark C. (2005-05-12). American National Biography: Supplement 2. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780195222029.
- Staff, From Times; Reports, Wire (2000-02-06). "Bonnie Cashin; Influential Fashion Designer". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- Alford, Holly Price; Stegemeyer, Anne (2014-09-25). Who's Who in Fashion. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9781609019693.
- Petkanas, Christopher (2016-05-10). "The Forgotten Designer Behind Some of Fashion's Biggest Trends". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- "bonnie cashin, the most copied fashion designer you've never heard of | read | i-D". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- Feitelberg, Rosemary (2016-04-14). "Bonnie Cashin as Revealed by Author and Archivist Stephanie Lake". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- Bonnie Cashin's personal archive, owned by design scholar Stephanie Lake: bonniecashin.org
- Bonnie Cashin at the Fashion Model Directory
- Bonnie Cashin designs, circa 1933 - circa 1960, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- Bonnie Cashin Collection of Fashion, Theater and Film Costume Design, 1913-2000, held by UCLA Library Special Collections
- American Ingenuity: Sportswear 1930s-1970s, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Bonnie Cashin (see index)
- The definitive Bonnie Cashin monograph, Bonnie Cashin's Century: Fashioning The Modern Woman (Rizzoli, 2016)