Altina Schinasi: Celebrating 116th Birthday of the Visionary Designer of Cat-Eye Glasses

Today, we celebrate the 116th birthday of Altina Schinasi, a visionary American designer known for revolutionizing eyewear fashion with her iconic ‘cat-eye’ eyeglass frame. Google search engine pays tribute to this remarkable woman, whose artistic journey took her from the streets of Manhattan to the vibrant art scene of Paris and beyond.

More About Altina Schinasi

Born on August 4, 1907, in Manhattan, New York, to immigrant parents, Altina Schinasi’s love for art was ignited during her time in Paris, where she pursued her passion for painting after completing her high school education. Later, back in New York City, she honed her artistic skills at The Art Students League while working as a window dresser for various retailers along Fifth Avenue. This opportunity allowed her to collaborate with and learn from esteemed artists such as Salvador Dalí and George Grosz, who played a crucial role in shaping her creative vision.

How it started?

It was during her tenure as a window display designer that Schinasi had her groundbreaking idea for the “cat-eye” eyeglass frame. At that time, women’s eyeglasses were limited to uninspired round frames. Schinasi saw an opportunity to create something fresh and unique for women. Inspired by the alluring shape of Harlequin masks worn during the Carnevale festival in Venice, Italy, she envisioned eyeglass frames with pointed edges that would accentuate and flatter the wearer’s face.

Persistently working on paper prototypes of her innovative design, Schinasi faced multiple rejections from major manufacturers who found her creation too unconventional. However, her determination paid off when a local shop owner recognized the potential of her design and requested an exclusive agreement for six months. The Harlequin eyeglasses quickly gained popularity, becoming a fashion sensation among women in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Schinasi’s invention garnered significant recognition, including the prestigious Lord & Taylor American Design Award in 1939. Vogue and Life, esteemed fashion publications, acknowledged her groundbreaking contribution to the world of fashion.

Altina Schinasi’s Career

Beyond her success in eyewear design, Altina Schinasi explored other artistic pursuits. She delved into filmmaking and produced a compelling documentary titled “George Grosz’ Interregnum,” which portrayed the life and career of her former teacher, the celebrated artist George Grosz. The film received widespread acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination and winning first place at the Venice Film Festival in 1960.

Altina Schinasi

As the years passed, Schinasi continued to innovate and express her creativity. In her later years, she penned her memoir, “The Road I Have Traveled,” providing a glimpse into her extraordinary life journey. Moreover, Altina volunteered as an art therapist, using her creative talents to help others, leaving a positive impact on the lives of those she touched.

Today, nearly a century after its inception, Altina’s cat-eye design continues to influence fashion accessory trends worldwide. Her unique energy and unwavering persistence have left an indelible mark on the eyewear industry and the world of fashion.

Altina Schinasi was not just a designer; she was a multifaceted artist, sculptor, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and inventor. She expanded her creative endeavors beyond eyeglass frames, venturing into the film industry with her acclaimed documentary about George Grosz. Additionally, she showcased her inventiveness through the creation of unusual portrait chairs and benches, aptly named “Chairacters.”

Google’s tribute to Altina Schinasi on her birth anniversary honors a woman whose creativity knew no bounds. Her innovative spirit, combined with her unwavering dedication, has left an enduring legacy in the world of art and design. As we celebrate her life and contributions, we remember Altina Schinasi as a true visionary and an inspiration to generations to come. Happy birthday to the woman who changed the face of fashion, one cat-eye at a time!

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