NEW YORK — During his more than seven decades in the fashion industry, Oleg Cassini was never shy about speaking his mind. Here are some of his memorable comments to WWD.
On American design, in 1959: “There would be nothing wrong with the dress business if all the collections would not look alike. All the styles stem from five or six picked in Paris, and the tendency, particularly among young designers, is to design not for the American consumer but for the fashion magazines.”
On women and power: “I always believed that you cannot conquer a woman. She decides and all the rest is propaganda. If a woman looks at you, in three or four seconds the basics are there and she can say ‘I could’ or ‘I could not.’ Then there is a ballad and the rest may be romantic, or it could be a friendship.”
On his wish list: “When I was a young fellow in Rome, I was mad about everything American — cowboys and all that. I wanted to go to America and be a famous designer, marry a beautiful woman — a big star maybe — and to be a millionaire. All these things came true in the end. I have made only one mistake in my wish list. I should have wished to be a billionaire.”
On his assets: “I am a great believer in luck. It was not because of my good looks, really. It was because of my talent — my enormous talent.”
On his own image: “When I was on Seventh Avenue, they wouldn’t take me seriously because I had a way of interpreting fashion that was light and breezy. Fashion is not ecclesiastical and lugubrious.”
On cowboys: “The name of Cassini is very much in demand. Women don’t even realize that I’ve been out of the dress business. Surveys taken this year  show that my name is still number one in the country. I’m the John Wayne of the dress business.”
On Indians: “I’m an expert on American Indians, you know.”
This story first appeared in the March 20, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On wealth: “There are three kinds of wealth — monetary, physical and social wealth. I have the kind of wealth that many other people don’t have: I am pleasing to the opposite sex. I have an affinity to the world of women. That makes me a dangerous element in the world of men.”
On his customers, in 1972: “There is a small group of designers who are creating for the elite. That’s an obsolete market. We’re going through a social revolution, a fashion revolution. I don’t want to be a designer for the rich. I’m interested in the girl who up to now has been in jeans. This is my theory: If your customer comes to you in a Rolls-Royce, you go home in the subway. But if she comes to you in the subway, you may go home in a Rolls-Royce.”
On his customers, in 2003: “You would think a man of my age would carry a customer base of women my own age. Of course, women of my age are all dead.”