- (1931- )He was born Arnold Isaacs in Montreal, Canada, the son of a Jewish furrier. Although he never finished high school, he studied the trade at the Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture parisienne and apprenticed at the house of Paquin before returning to Montreal to study at the Cotnoir-Capponi School of Design. He moved to New York in 1951 and worked for Charles James for two years, before opening his own business in 1956. He changed his last name by reversing the letters and is known to be one of the first American designers to do trunk shows. By 1959, Scaasi was designing three ready-to-wear collections a year, a fur collection, a childrenswear collection, and a jewelry collection. Scaasi is best known for his tailored suits and glamorous eveningwear, which are often embellished with feathers and beads. His celebrity clients included Joan Crawford, Arlene Francis, Dina Merrill, Diahann Carroll, Sophia Loren, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, and Aretha Franklin. He has also dressed First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower, Barbara Bush (inaugural gown), and Laura Bush. In 1964, Scaasi opened his couture collection and, in 1969, caused a scandal when Barbara Streisand accepted her Oscar for Funny Girl, all while wearing a see-through pantsuit created by Scaasi. The 1980s were Scaasi's heyday. He launched his Scaasi Boutique Collection in 1984, and over the years signed a series of licensing agreements for fragrance, furs, jewelry, sleepwear, porcelain dolls, accessories, sportswear, bridalwear, and a lower-priced evening-wear collection. In 1993, Scaasi signed a five-year agreement with the home shopping network QVC, selling dresses and jewelry. His clothes are also a favorite among society ladies such as Nan Kempner, Ivana Trump, Blaine Trump, Pat Kluge, Irma Schlesinger, Anne Bass, Nina Griscom, Gayfryd Steinberg, Libet Johnson, and Patty Davis Raynes. Scaasi's professional honors include a Coty Award in 1958, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Creative Excellence Award in 1987, along with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, and Pratt Institute's Award for 25 Years of Couture Design in 1989. There have been three retrospectives of his work by the Museum of the City of New York in 1999, Kent State University in 2001, and the Museum at FIT in 2002. Scaasi received the Canadian government's Lifetime of Creativity Award in 2002 and his tell-all book, Women I Have Dressed (and Undressed), was published in 2004. Scaasi continues his made-to-measure business by appointment only.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.
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