Bonnie Cashin was born on 28th September 1915 in Oakland, USA, the daughter of a dressmaker. In the early 30's, she attended the Art Students League and also designed costumes for the Roxy Music Hall dance chorus. To earn extra money, she also designed sports clothes and divided her time between show business and fashion. In 1937, she produced a collection for the Sportswear firm Adler and Adler, for whom she subsequently worked full-time.
She designed handbags for many years, for the Coach Company. Her design philosophy matched their simple functional lines. She was also known for her World War II women’s uniforms for the services.
In 1943, she moved to 20th Century Fox in Hollywood and for 6 years created costumes for 33 major films. One of her early assignments was Laura in 1944 which starred Gene Tierney. The costumes Bonnie Cashin created for this film was in marked contrast to the over-dressing so common in American films of the 40's.
The clothes for Laura do not look out of place even today. In 1949 Cashin returned to New York. In 1953 she opened her own business.
In 1961 Bonnie was awarded the American Designers Coty Award. She is one of the most original designers in America and has won countless awards and citations. The Brooklyn Museum has been collecting Bonnie Cashin originals for many years. Bonnie Cashin headed a foundation called the Innovative Design Fund, the purpose of which is to see out emerging creators and provide funding for their work.
In 1972 she established the Knittery for the manufacture of hand-knitted clothing from hand-spun yarns. She retired from active work in 1977 although she still lived and worked in a skyscraper overlooking New York's East River supervising the work of the house that bears her name.
She died on February 3rd, 2000 of complications of heart surgery, at the age of 85.
In 2000/2001 Coach leather Bag company sponsored a retrospective of Bonnie Cashin's accessories at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of technology, in New York, entitled Bonnie Cashin, a Practical Dreamer. In the year 2000/2002, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along the pavement of 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the "FASHION WALK OF FAME." Bonnie Cashin was one of those honoured.
She is considered one of the Great American designers of the 20th century. She believes in clean, uncomplicated designs; her clothes are loose-fitting and functional and often worn with layers which could be discarded according to climate. Many of her designs are still relevant today. She was skilled at mixing fabrics and worked frequently with canvas, leather, poplin, suede and tweed. During the 50's and 60's - her most creative years - she produced, among other numerous garments, Chinese style jackets over dresses, canvas and poplin raincoats, fringed suede dresses, wool tabards, kimono coats piped with leather and long dinner jackets made of upholstery fabric. Bonnie Cashin is most often associated with the Poncho as a fashion garment. She was also famed for her long fringed skirts made from plaid mohair, and with her signature funnel-necked pullover sweater featuring a neck doubling as a hood. Many contemporary designs can be traced to the intense practicality and purposeful direct lines of Cashin's clothing.