Oleg Cassini, fashion designer and bon vivant who famously swathed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and was at one point married to Hollywood star Gene Tierney and engaged to future princess Grace Kelly, died Friday on Long Island. He was 92.
First to be a franchiser of a designer’s name as a brand, he oversaw at least 50 licenses, placing his name on such sundries as sunglasses, watches and more, shunning fashion shows to instead bring his designs directly to the public, guesting regularly on “The Tonight Show” and more. Besides Kennedy’s distinctive look including the pillbox hat, he designed the Nehru jacket.
Son of the Countess Marguerite Cassini, who was daughter of a Russian ambassador to the United States, and Russian diplomat Alexander Loiewski, he and his family fled when the czar was overthrown. The family ended up in Florence, Italy, where his mother opened a dress shop.
By 1936, he was in New York and, with brother Igor, went on to fashion a career. After becoming the fourth husband of cough syrup heiress Merry Fahrney (who eventually had nine ex-spouses), he moved to Hollywood, where he worked in the costume department at Paramount Studios and then 20th Century Fox.
Among the stars he designed for were Veronica Lake, Marilyn Monroe, Joan Fontaine, Joan Crawford and Tierney, whom he married in 1941. He become a U.S. citizen and enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in the States..
Tierney, while pregnant with their first child, was exposed to rubella and their daughter Daria was born blind and severely retarded. Cassini fantasized about suicide and Tierney fell into a deep depression. The couple divorced 1947, reconciled and had a second daughter, then divorced again in 1952. They remained friends until the actress’s death in 1991.
He was subsequently linked with such stars as Anita Ekberg, Linda Evans and Jill St. John.
Feeling guilty about all the leopards killed to make furs for outfits he had inspired, Cassini became an animal activist and introduced micro-fiber fake furs in 1999.
Among survivors are wife Marianne, whom he married in 1971, two children, and four grandchildren.