Tax photo of 26 West 56th Street, ca. 1939. Courtesy of NYC Municipal Archives.
Arnold Scaasi surrounded by sketches for Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall at 26 West 56th Street. Source: Arnold Scaasi's "Women I’ve Dressed (and Undressed)."
Arnold Scaasi, c. 1950s. Source unknown.
A Scaasi dress during the period when he won the 1958 Coty American Fashion Critics award. Source unknown.
Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd, c. 2007. Source: New York Social Diary.
Arnold Scaasi (1930-2015) is best known for his evening wear designs worn by first ladies, socialites, and celebrities primarily during the 1960s through 1980s. Before Scaasi was 30, he won the prestigious Coty Fashion Critic’s Award for best designer of the year and his designs were covered in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. In 1954 he reversed the spelling of his Jewish last name (Isaacs) to give it a more European flair, which was better for business in the 1950s, and two years later launched his own ready-to-wear house garnering immediate notice.
In 1959, Scaasi began showing his extravagant and influential ready-to-wear collections at his residence at 26 West 56th Street. The lavishly redecorated rooms were styled by fashionable interior designer Valerian Rybar. The New York Times reported that the lush interior included “velvet-pillowed divans, velvet draperies and even velvet-covered bannisters in terra cotta tone…Chandeliers sparkle in the room.” Scaasi lived on the top two floors of the building; he previously worked out of a tenement building on East 58th Street and prior to this address lived for two years at 45 West 57th Street. Scaasi made a practice of presenting his fashions at night, having the press and buyers dress up in formal attire, and providing his guests with champagne, sipped to the strains of violin music.
Scaasi gained worldwide attention in 1969 when Barbra Streisand wore one of his most infamous designs – a Peter Pan-collared sheer pantsuit with bell bottoms – to the Oscars and picked up her best lead actress award for Funny Girl. In 1996, Scaasi was given the Lifetime Achievement award by the Fashion Council of America.
Scaasi met Parker Ladd in New York City in 1962 and the two were married in 2011 at a lavish celebration at Le Cirque.