Altina Schinasi: The Visionary Designer Behind Iconic Cat-Eye Glasses


Altina Schinasi: The Visionary Designer Behind Iconic Cat-Eye Glasses

Altina Schinasi, born on August 4, 1907, in Manhattan, New York, was a remarkable American artist, designer, and inventor whose impact on the world of fashion and eyewear is celebrated to this day. As the daughter of immigrant parents, she embarked on a journey that would lead her to become a trailblazer in the creative arts.

Altina’s artistic talent was evident from a young age. She honed her skills in various creative pursuits, excelling as a painter, filmmaker, window dresser, and designer. Her diverse interests and relentless pursuit of innovation set her apart from her peers, and she quickly became known for her unique artistic vision.

One of Altina’s most significant contributions to fashion was her groundbreaking creation of the “Harlequin eyeglass frame,” which later became affectionately known as cat-eye glasses. Inspired by the alluring shape of Harlequin masks worn during the Carnevale festival in Venice, Italy, Altina envisioned eyeglass frames with pointed edges that accentuated and flattered the wearer’s face. This fresh and unique design departed from the conventional round frames that were prevalent at the time, revolutionizing women’s eyewear fashion during the late 1930s and 1940s.

Despite facing initial rejections from major manufacturers who deemed her design too unconventional, Altina persevered. Her breakthrough came when a local shop owner recognized the potential of her cat-eye glasses and requested an exclusive agreement for six months. The frames swiftly gained popularity, becoming a fashion sensation among women in the United States.

Altina’s remarkable creativity extended beyond fashion design. She delved into the world of filmmaking, producing a compelling documentary titled “George Grosz’ Interregnum” about her former teacher, the renowned artist George Grosz. The film garnered widespread acclaim, earning her an Academy Award nomination and winning first place at the Venice Film Festival in 1960.

Throughout her life, Altina received well-deserved recognition for her artistic contributions. She was honored with the American Design Award from Lord & Taylor, highlighting her profound influence on the world of fashion and design.

Beyond her artistic endeavors, Altina’s philanthropic spirit was evident. Following the passing of her father, her mother established the Moris Sinasi Children’s Hospital in Turkey as a testament to their family’s commitment to helping others.

On August 19, 1999, Altina Schinasi passed away at the age of 92, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire creative minds today. Her innovative spirit, remarkable talents, and fearlessness in pursuing her passions serve as an enduring source of inspiration for artists, designers, and visionaries worldwide. The iconic cat-eye glasses she introduced to the world remain a timeless fashion statement, a symbol of her visionary approach to art and design.

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