The Canadian-born fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, who dressed a bevy of U.S. first ladies, died due to cardiac arrest at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan Tuesday. He was 85.
Scaasi was surrounded by family and friends when he died, according to his close friend Michael Selleck. The designer was married to his longtime partner, Parker Ladd, a former publishing executive who is 86, according to friends.
Glendina West, who worked with Scaasi for 40 years, being his confidante, said a private funeral is planned for later this week, and a memorial service will be held after Labor Day, CNN reported.
Scaasi''s custom gowns graced celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor. His White House days went back to Mamie Eisenhower, whom he first dressed in 1960, and Jackie Kennedy before she went into the White House, as a senator’s wife, and also as first lady. Lady Bird Johnson, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush were also his clients, he said in a 2009 interview with WWD.
Born in Montreal as Arnold Martin Isaacs, he started his career in New York in the mid-1950s. He was one of the few designers concentrating on custom-made clothing, rather than ready-to-wear, according to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He launched his first ready-to-wear line in 1956. His designs featured in an exhibition at the museum, “Scaasi: American Couturier,” in 2011.
The designer won a Coty American Fashion Critics Award for best designer of the year, and his designs graced the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, the museum added. The institution also said he preferred working directly with his custom clientele on “luxurious and dramatic garments that suited their lifestyles.”
Scaasi's work was also featured at the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Florida. One of his most talked-about designs was a black sequined pantsuit Streisand wore to collect her 1969 Academy Award for “Funny Girl.” Scaasi published several books, including a memoir titled “Women I Have Dressed (And Undressed)” in 2004.