Author and jewelry designer Stephanie Lake discovered Bonnie Cashin while researching vintage fashion for a Sotheby’s catalog and was shocked to find how little material there was about this seminal contemporary American designer.
Through some fortuitous contacts, she came to meet Cashin, and they formed one of those rare and immediate deep bonds. For three years, until Cashin’s death, the two met almost weekly and collaborated on, as Lake states, “my plan to redress historical neglect of her career.”
The result is a comprehensive survey of Cashin’s innovations and signature designs shown in more than 300 images of drawings, photos, garments and ephemera from the designer’s personal archives – a collection gifted to Lake after her death in 2000 – that Lake decided to immortalize in a book.
Bonnie Cashin: Chic is Where You Find It, released in April 2016, is an illustrated look at the quintessential American modernist, acclaimed for her “Auntie Mame” lifestyle, her brazen opinions, her iconoclastic approach to fashion, and her visionary designs for the modern American woman. Jonathan Adler, designer and home decorative arts guru, wrote the foreword of the book.
This October, Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona Costume Institute welcomed Lake, who presented her book at the museum as part as the Second Wednesdays program and at the Hermosa Inn the following evening.
A talented artist who happened to become a fashion designer, Bonnie Cashin was free-spirited and unconventional in all she did.
Revered for her intellectual and independent approach to fashion, Cashin changed the way women dressed with her revolutionary, forward-thinking approach by designing chic, functional clothing for the modern woman – a woman like herself who was relentlessly on the go and defying accepted notions of the era, sharing a belief that practicality and joy in dress were necessary to living a modern, mobile life to the fullest.
A designer with an exceptional eye for fabric, shape and finishing details, Cashin is considered a “mother” of American sportswear and credited with many fashion “firsts” including the concept of layering, and championing such timeless shapes as ponchos, tunics and kimonos.
She was the founding designer of Coach when the house was launched in the early 1960s, and was arguably the first to design the It Bags of her day – classic handbags of rugged leather and handsome brass hardware that every woman wanted to carry.
The fifth scholar in the world to earn a doctorate in decorative arts, design history and material culture, Lake informs her jewelry by her work as a curator, archivist and auction specialist. Her academic focus on decorative arts from the 18th century to the current day centered on personal adornment and aesthetic choices made by elite and intellectual circles. Her curatorial work included stints in Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles, working with some of the world’s most extraordinary collections and collectors.
She maintains Cashin’s personal effects and entire clothing collection, and now maintains the most comprehensive Bonnie Cashin Archive in the world. Lake has curated her retrospectives around the globe.
Lake’s work has received distinguished industry accolades and editorial attention.
To lear more about Stephanie Lake’s work, visit stephanielakedesign.com.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE LAKE