Design Influences: Do You Know Bonnie Cashin?

We have all heard of the great American fashion design legends, such as Roy Halston, Calvin Klein and Bill Blass; but have you heard of Bonnie Cashin?  If your answer is no; take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

A pioneer in American women's fashion, Bonnie Cashin was more than a Coty Award winning designer.  Cashin was and still is more than a strong influence on many of the legendary American fashion designers that succeeded her. Cashin's revolutionary style not only inspired other creatives, but her work is continually copied even to this day.

Besides designing for her own label, "Bonnie Cashin Designs," Cashin designed collections for design houses such as Hermes, Adler and Adler, Ballantyne, Aquascutum and Coach.  She also designed the American Airlines flight attendant uniforms as well as the women's armed forces uniforms during World War II.

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Cashin revolutionized women's fashion by introducing the concept of "women's sportswear" and was famous for incorporating alternative materials such as leather, mohair and metal hardware.

Bonnie Cashin Designs

A sampling of Bonnie Cashin designs (above).

As the first designer for Coach (1962-1974), it was Cashin's 1940's convertible top that gave her the idea to use the now infamous brass turnlocks as closures for clothing, handbags and accessories.  Her famous 1960's designs for Coach were the shoulder bag (yes, the shoulder bag) and the leather clutch style bag with a removable shoulder strap.

Bonnie Cashin Handbag Designs For Coach

 Bonnie Cashin handbag designs for Coach (above).

Another Cashin hallmark that many of us take for granted is the concept of layering; which she not only introduced into women's fashion, but she also coined the phrase. 

Bonnie Cashin Layering

Examples of Bonnie Cashin's sportswear for women as well as concepts in layered clothes (above).

The best way to describe Cashin's design philosophy is tailored and functional with a touch of sophisticated whimsy.  She was quoted as saying that she did not enjoy designing for a trend but rather for "a character with a particular life." Perhaps this stems from her early years as as a costume designer for the Los Angeles Ballet Company and The Roxy Theater in New York City.

Bonnie Cashin lead a fascinating life rich with creativity and design inspiration.  This short post is only a peek into her amazing life and career.  If you would like to learn more about her or are in need of some creative inspiration, then I encourage you to read the book "Chic Is Where You Find It" by Stephanie Lake."

Bonnie Cashin Chic Is Where You Find It

Invasion of the designers! Why are there so many designers today and where did they all come from? Click here to read.

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