Arnold Isaacs was born in Montreal, Canada in 1931. He took the name Scaasi which is Isaacs spelt backwards. He was the son of a furrier. His family moved to Australia when he was young.

He returned to Canada and studied fashion design in Montreal before moving to Paris in the early 50's. He joined the Cotnoir-Capponi School of Design which was affiliated with the Chambre Syndicale School for Haute Couture. He undertook an apprenticeship with PAQUIN. He worked for two years with Charles JAMES in New York, before freelancing for Lilly DACHE (hat designer) among others.

In 1955, Scaasi made the much-coveted Christmas cover of Vogue Magazine, with a dramatic red evening coat.

Scaasi began to rethink his objectives after juggling a career during the late 1950s and early 1960s that included menswear, children's wear, and costume jewelry, in addition to ladies' ready-to-wear and custom designs. He decided to focus strategically on couture dressmaking at a time when Paris couture was beginning to suffer. It was 1964 when Scaasi debuted his collection of eveningwear. He was able to take the freedom of the youth-obsessed 1960s and channel the energy into designs that featured keen attention to details and the workmanship of couture dressing.

In 1958 he won the prestigious Coty Fashion Critics Award.

Scaasi is the designer who changed the world's perception of Barbra Streisand with her almost see-through Oscar outfit in 1969.

He is noted in the USA for his tailored suits and glamorous evening wear, cocktail dresses and suits, often trimmed with feathers, fur, sequins or fine embroidery.

In 1989, he designed the blue velvet inaugural gown for Barbara Bush when her husband George Bush became US President.

This dress is now part of the Smithsonian Institutions's garment collection. He has made many other gowns for Barbara Bush over the years.

There were two major exhibitions of the work of Arnold Scaasi, one was at Kent State University from June 2001 to May 2002, entitled "Scaasi, An American Icon". The second was from October 2002 through till January 2003, when FIT New York held an exhibition of Scaasi gowns called "Exuberant Fashion : A celebration of an American Couturier."

In his new book "Women I have dressed (and undressed)" Arnold Scaasi accuses Oleg Cassini of copying French designs when dressing Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy from 1960 to 1963 when he was the official White House designer.

Midyear 2001 was a financial success for Scaasi's Leisure Collection for QVC, which sold 4,500 pieces netting $250 million. His line showcased rose prints, leopard stripes, and tropical flora in at-home caftans and patio dresses.

The Look

As a young apprentice to Charles James during the early 1950s, Arnold Scaasi was imprinted by James' concentration on "building" an evening dress as a sculpture. This early training led Scaasi to construct dresses in the round and to approach design as three-dimensional form. The influence of James has been a lifelong inspiration for Scaasi; another was the richness of the fabrics and furs used during the 1950s, when the prerequisite for women was to be perfectly dressed from head to toe. Scaasi emphasized sequins, fringe, and feathers as trims, substituting new fabrics to create an ostentatious signature style that included minidresses, trouser suits, and the use of transparency. During the 1970s, styles changed to a more body-conscious, pared-down way of dressing. Scaasi, true to form, turned to dressing women who still loved to be noticed, such as artist Louise Nevelson. It made sense to Scaasi to continue creating what he was known for and what he loved to do. The basis of his work has been a combination of cut, color sensibility, and fabric selections recalling a past elegance yet which continue to speak to his clients' most current desires.

Who Wears It

Barbra Streisand, Barbara Bush, Elizabeth Taylor, Ivana Trump, Blaine Trump, Joan Rivers, Barbara Walters,


1989 Arnold Scaasi (W)
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