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New York Journal of Books

April 11 2016 – Stephanie Lake

New York Journal of Books
New York Journal of Books


Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It

Image of Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It
Release Date: 
April 11, 2016
Reviewed by: 

“Bonnie Cashin is a law unto herself,” said Bernadine Morris, fashion critic of the New York Times.

This is one of the most difficult reviews as there is simply not enough space and time to elaborate on the content of Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It. If there has ever been a book of this genre that is long overdue it is this one, and a great debt of gratitude is owed to Stephanie Lake for taking on this monumental effort with such intelligence. Lake has shed a white light on one of the most brilliant designing minds of any century and offers the reader an astounding amount of written and visual information; the bar has been raised.

“Design is not a group project,” said Bonnie Cashin.

Bonnie Cashin was: a pioneer, prescient, an iconoclast, dynamic, a provocateur, an adventurer, an original, a rebel, a one-man band, an innovator, a wordsmith, and most definitely one of the most overlooked and underrated designers of the 20th century This woman had more “signatures” than a petition to abolish income tax; among her many signature looks were the use of heavy duty hardware, layering that she began in the 50s, a total wardrobe concept, one season dressing, funnel necked turtlenecks, her love of color, bold plaids and so much more. The experienced reader will be able to connect the dots and see her influence in the 21st century, whether it is in the fringed handbags of YSL by Hedi Slimane or the work of Phoebe Philo.

“Mass conformity in the name of fashion is a complete bore,” said Bonnie Cashin in 1969.

Some of the tidbits that will be unknown by 99.5% of fashion readers is that Cashin’s collections were retailed by Hermes in Paris, that she indeed did invent the concept of layering over half a century ago, that she never worked a day on Seventh Avenue, that she advocated design protection in the 60s—and that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. Her initial handbag collection under her own name was called “Cashin Carry.” Brilliant.

“The look of today . . . was designed ten years ago by Bonnie Cashin,” said Eleanor Lambert, who founded the International Best Dressed List, the Coty Fashion Critics’ Award, and New York Fashion Week.

Her collaborations with Coach, Ballantyne, Hermes, Liberty, and so many more earned her Coty awards, front pages of WWD, editorials in Vogue and Bazaar, and international fame and adulation way before it was de rigeur in the business of fashion. This woman was so ahead of her times and of the fashion curve that it is inconceivable that a book such as this has not been published during her life or any sooner. Author Lake is owed a debt by all fashion readers let alone the entire fashion community that is woefully to blame for ignoring those who truly paved the way for today’s designers, who in large majority have drawn upon the endless ideas of Bonnie Cashin.

“I am not interested in who slept with whom, or who wore what. That does not add up to creativity,” said Bonnie Cashin in the early 1970s.