You may remember I did a review of A Perfumer’s Secret a couple of weeks ago.  I was given a copy of the book by its author, Adria J. Cimino, to do a review which I eagerly agreed to do. While having an email conversation with Adria I asked her if she would be willing to do the nenasnotes questionnaire, she immediately said yes!  I am thrilled to be able to include her in this week’s Monday Profile post.  I know you will enjoy getting to know the author, I found her to be as charming as her books.
The following copy and answers to my questionnaire are from Adria…
“Adria J. Cimino is the author of Amazon Best-Selling novels Paris, Rue des Martyrs and Close to Destiny, as well as A Perfumer’s Secret and The Creepshow. She also co-founded boutique publishing house Velvet Morning Press. Prior to jumping into the publishing world full time, she spent more than a decade as a journalist at news organizations including The AP and Bloomberg News. She lives in Paris with her husband, Didier, and daughter, Phèdre. When she isn’t writing, you can find Adria at her neighborhood café watching the world go by.”



Adria J. Cimino in front of her beloved Eiffel Tower.  Photo courtesy of Adria J. Cimino


AJC: The earliest glimmer was in elementary school. I was about seven or eight and we made our own books, laminating the covers and tying all the pages together. I remember feeling joyful about the whole thing and realizing that I could actually write my own book! But from then until the point of publishing my first book as an adult, well, there was a lot of learning and work to be done!


AJC: I don’t think an author ever truly makes it to that point, or at least I haven’t. There’s always the feeling that the best story is yet to be told. I fantasize about that next great book I will write. And then when I do write it, I’m fantasizing about the next one!


AJC: I used to be a full-time journalist so I’ve always been something writing related, and I think I always will do something writing related as that’s really my thing. That said, I wish I could have many careers all in one lifetime: dancer, perfumer, attorney, doctor, to name a few. The closest I can get is creating characters that can live out my dreams.


AJC: Book: A Moveable Feast (because it describes the Paris I love most)

Theater: Cats!

Ballet: The Nutcracker

Music: Jazz, classical… and 1990s pop

Food: Homemade Italian food and French food


AJC: Modern Dance, reading, musical theater, spending time with my husband and daughter and with friends


AJC: I live in Paris and our apartment dates back to the nineteenth century, which actually is not very old for Paris. It has wooden beams, a slanted roof and is old enough to seem like an antique to me. There is something very charming about old apartments!



Ernest Hemingway

Anais Nin

Henry Miller

Marilyn Monroe



Alvin Ailey

Marie-Claude Pietragalla

Andrew Lloyd Webber

My six-year-old daughter

My husband is a chef, who previously graduated from the Sorbonne, so I would ask him to come up with a meal inspired by literature! I would take charge of dessert, though, and it would have to be chocolate crème brulee. (NI: I’ll have to get this recipe for my readers, sounds too yummy not to have!!!!)


 Adria and her daughter with A Perfumer’s Secret with flowers used in the text.


AJC: It’s so hard to choose a favorite spot… but one of my favorites is Sicily. For the natural beauty and the cuisine! As for where I’d like to visit: the Greek islands. My favorite places are near the water and usually have warm weather.


AJC: The Starry Night by van Gogh because it was my mother’s favorite painting and it makes me think of her.

What insightful answers to my questionnaire, a little more than one gets from the book jackets…now you MUST read all of Adria’s books.  I am doing a review on Paris, Rue des Martyrs in tomorrow’s Books Books Books post.  I can’t wait to see what Adria has in store for us next…perhaps we can join her at her favorite cafe and watch the world go by with her…..stayed tuned!



It has been so much fun to post about Stephanie Lake and Bonnie Cashin all week.  Now it is my turn to talk a little about my experiences with the innovative creator, Bonnie Cashin.


Bonnie Cashin as I remember her.

One thing I don’t think I have mentioned during my Fashion Flashback ramblings is that I was well aware of the fashion icons I was working with.  They were all very much my idols when I was growing up and reading all my fashion magazines (I would check the newsstand, a couple of blocks from my home, on an almost daily basis to see if the new Vogue, Seventeen, Harper’s Bazaar had arrived, the newsstand owner always saved copies for me).  I clipped them and did inspiration boards of my favorite fashions, models, designers, colors, etc.  I don’t remember ever not loving the glamour of the industry and started sewing for my dolls and making clothing for my Brenda Starr paper dolls at a very early age.  As I got older I along with my Mother, Ruth, made all my clothes.  I never wanted what anyone else had.  Can you imagine how exciting it was for me to work with and, in many instances, be able to call, these pillars of my industry, my friends?

Bonnie Cashin was one of them.  She often came to the Chicago store and on a couple of occasions visited our Old Orchard store as well.  As was usual with our visiting designers we did formal commentated morning staff presentations as well as formal shows for clients. Bonnie’s collection, she did some exclusive items for Saks Fifth Avenue at the time, was always totally different from any other designer, for that matter any designer now. They were right up my alley, I loved the casual elegance of the fabric, the practically of the designs but most importantly I loved the creativity and joyousness of the designer.  We hit it off immediately and would chat on trips to and from the airport as well as in between shows.  On more than one occasion she decided she wanted me to be in the shows, I was a sample size then!  I had done a couple of bridal shows when I began at Saks but modeling wasn’t my career path.  I was, of course, very excited to be chosen to model for her.  What I find amusing now, certainly not then, was that I was producing the shows, lining up the models, calling the runs, etc. and I would call out a certain number and the model didn’t appear.  I thought this strange…in those days I had each model, maybe two, in a fitting room and they would dress and get into the lineup.  Where was the model!!!!  Silly Nena, the model was me!  So much for my modeling career.  Once I realized I was in the show it was great fun for a change.



Here is a three piece outfit of mine that I donated to the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum.  I loved this outfit, of course, I did it is green and looks like the new Pantone color, Greenery, for 2017!  The wool jersey stripe dress has a collar that snaps on the sides to form a funnel neck, you see it down here, it is trimmed in leather, which could peek out from the leather dress and/or under the looped wool mohair coat.

All above photos courtesy of the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum, taken especially for nenasnotes.

I remember when we no longer showed Sophie garments in the Annual St. Luke’s Fashion Show (now the Rush Woman’s Board Fashion Show, which just celebrated it’s 90th Annual Fashion Show!) I took a chance and totally changed direction and decided to present Bonnie Cashin on our group of models, all society ladies.  Her collection that season was inspired by Native Americans and I even had the models wear moccasins, it was a huge hit, totally against what everyone was expecting Saks Fifth Avenue to present.  Great fun.


A look that I showed at the St. Luke’s Fashion Show. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake.

image imagePoster by Steven Stipelman, I adore his work. This poster hung on my office wall along with one he did of a Norman Norell gown.  Both posters are now in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. I took this, not beautifully cropped, image with my iPhone.

Bonnie Cashin was awarded many honors in her career, two I find unique are her medallion on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York (someone really needs to photograph these beautifully and do a book…they are quite amazing!).  The other is the Sports Illustrated American Sportswear Design Awards which she received in 1958, it’s third year, I mentioned the Award in my post on Anne Fogarty.  Bonnie was not present to accept her award for the “Sporting Look Award”, she was, according to a Sports Illustration account, “barnstorming”, as Bonnie called her travels, in Europe and India

The joy of having been exposed to the creativity and the humanity of Bonnie Cashin was a huge bonus in my career.  There wasn’t anyone like her before she came on the design scene and there isn’t anyone like her now!!!!  Again, thank you Stephanie Lake for bringing our Bonnie to the world, she would have loved it as she loved you!  Fashion History made better and more complete!

“Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It” (


One of the things I like most about doing this blog is getting to know people, those I have known for years and am finding out new things about and brand new friends that have very interesting stories to share and in many cases have opened their homes, via photos (either mine or theirs) for me to in turn share with you.

I am continuing my posts on Stephanie and Cory Lake with a peek into their incredible home.  As Stephanie has told us they live and work there, the Bonnie Cashin archives live there and it is, of course, home to the extraordinaryly stylish 3 year old, Odette!

As is said, pictures are worth a thousand words…so here are those pictures.

imageA collection of vintage silver in front of one of their paintings.


imageThe sunroom and it’s view…a little something to look forward to after the thaw!!!

imageMugs ready for enteraining.

imageSome of the Lake’s collections.

imageOf course one of my favorite images….book shelves!!!  And, oh, the coffee table isn’t bad either!

imageA small portion of the Bonnie Cashin archives.

imageMore of the archives.

imageA montage of pieces dressed in their holiday finery.

imageOur dear Odette taking a time out from all the Holiday decorating, enrertaining but mostly the dancing!!!!

All photos courtesy of Stephanie Lake.


Today I’m sharing photos from Stephanie and Cory Lake’s home and a recipe Stephanie has shared with us.  Do go to the end of the post for a surprise!  Enjoy!!!!!


imageA couple after my own heart…what else do you need but caviar and champagne!!!!  Stunning tablescapes and presentation of food.

imageSweets among the florals and object d’art!

imageA perfect floral centerpiece combining decorative cabbage with amaryllis, fabulous!

imageThe precious Odette appropriately dressed for her tea party!

Stephanie’s suggested recipe for a Holiday Open House…sounds perfect for New Year’s Day!

Grilled Baby Artichoke and Asparagus Salad with Shrimp and Saffron Aioli

From “Salad for Dinner”–I have been a lifelong devotee of the concept–and the wonderful book is from my publisher, Rizzoli.  (httIps://

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1/4  teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

12 baby artichokes (note: the original recipe includes directions for substituting full-size artichokes)

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

6 cups arugula

1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, paprika, lemon peel, and crushed red pepper.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 2-8 hours.

Prepare a grill to medium heat.  Peel back the outer leaves of the artichokes until the remaining leaves are a pale yellow-green.  Cut off the tip of each artichoke and trim the stems.  Cut the artichokes in half length-wise and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet.  Brush the artichokes with olive oil.  Add the asparagus to the baking sheet with the artichokes and brush with olive oil.

Line a large platter with the arugula.  Drizzle the arugula with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil.  Squeeze some lemon over the arugula, about 2 teaspoons.  Arrange the shrimp, then the artichokes, then the asparagus on the grill.  Sprinkle the shrimp and the vegetables with salt and grill, turning, until shrimp are cooked through and the artichokes and asparagus are tender and browned in spots, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Arrange the shrimp, artichokes, and asparagus atop the arugula.  Garnish with the lemon wedges and with the Saffron Aioli

Saffron Aioli

Small pinch saffron threads

1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably organic)

1 egg yolk

3 garlic cloves, pressed

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the saffron threads in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until just fragrant (do not burn), about 20 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 tablespoon water.  Cover the pan and steep the saffron until the water is dark orange, about 5 minutes.

In a deep bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, egg yolk, garlic, and saffron mixture to blend.  Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over the saffron mixture in the bowl and whisk vigorously, about 30 seconds.  Repeat twice more, adding 2 teaspoons oil and whisking.  Slowly add the remaining olive oil to the saffron mixture, pouring it into the bowl in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly, continuing to whisk until the aioli thickens to a spreadable consistency.  Whisk in the lemon juice and salt and season with black  pepper (can be prepared one week ahead; cover and refrigerate).

Back in the day, Saks Fifth Avenue’s master corporate special events guru and my mentor and dear friend, Helen O’Hagan, decided to do a series of limited edition cookbooks that were to be given to special clients and vendors of SFA.  Each volume was different. The first, published in 1983, was a tiny hard cover tome covered in black with the title Cook in Style in red, as were the end papers! All very chic. All the recipes were from Saks Fifth Avenue designers.  I will be including some as I post Fashion Flashback, but wanted to share a special one today…it is, of course, from our subject of the week, Bonnie Cashin!


Cook Spanish rice, already seasoned, follow directions on Uncle Ben’s box, (let’s hope they still make it!!!, if not season your own). Put in a casserole and add a handful of lightly cooked peas. Throw in firm, succulent hunks of chicken or shrimp, as preferred.  Sprinkle top thickly with slices of stuffed green olives and cover with foil.

Put in medium (does this mean 350º ?) preheated oven about 30 to 40 minutes before needed (? does she mean served??!!). When nice and steamy (and cooked through), serve with garlic bread and a good California Napa Valley wine (once a California girl always a California girl!)

I like to serve both red and white for choices…perhaps Berenger’s elegant dry Fume Blanc or one of Sterlings lovely well-balanced reds.

All Bonnie’s charming words, Nena’s comments in parenthesis!

All photos courtesy of Stephanie Lake.



When I first read about Stephanie Lake’s association with Bonnie Cashin and that she was writing a book I was ecstatic!  I couldn’t believe that no one had written anything about this innovative creator other that very brief mentions in anthologies of designers.  I believe the article was in the New York Times several years ago.  I waited and waited for the announcement that the book was to be published by Rizzoli, finally, it was announced and I put my name in to have it delivered the day it was published.  I was so anxious to see the way Dr. Lake would handle the subject.  To say I wasn’t disappointed would be a major understatement!  And then to my great surprise, it was announced that Dr. Lake would be a guest speaker for a Chicago History Museum Costume Council event made it even more meaningful.  I contacted Dr. Lake to request an interview which she readily accepted (you read that profile yesterday!)  I want you to share some of my impressions of this extraordinary book on a designer that I had the extreme pleasure of working with over the years.


First of all the book is large in size and weight not only physically but more importantly in content.  It is filled with amazing photographs, sketches, and memorabilia. It is to be studied in depth but I will attempt to do an overview in this review.

Stephanie has divided the book into sections to highlight Bonnie’s unprecedented designing career.  Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with photographs, sketches, letters, and other personal Cashin mementos. They include photos of her homes, her lifestyle, her thoughts.  If you only look at all the exquisite photographs and renderings you are doing yourself a disservice.  Stephanie’s text is done in precise detail and with love for her dear friend…may I say her alter ego!

Beginning with Bonnie’s early years as a costume designer for chorus girls (she wanted to be a dancer) through her ten years as a Hollywood costume designer (her 60 screen credits while working for 20th Century Fox, include: Laura, Anna and the King of Siam and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).

Gene Tierney in Laura with Vincent Price.  Costume design by Bonnie Cashin.

Stephanie takes us to the forming of Bonnie’s own company, where she called the shots and remained an independent thinker and a “free lance” designer throughout her career.  She “invented” the term “layering” it hadn’t been done before Bonnie created it (how could we live without it today!). She combined color like no one had before as well as mixing texture and using interesting fastenings for her garments.  Bonnie was a world traveler and was inspired by our world and brought home many objects to inspire her creations and to live with.  Words were extremely important to her, so much so she had a graffiti wall as you entered her U. N. Plaza apartment, brightly colored painted patches were covered with her favorite thoughts or quotes of others written in Indigo Ink.

If nothing else Bonnie was a designer of practically..her turn lock hardware on her garments and handbags were inspired by the closings on her California convertible.  Pockets were made into handbags with brass closings…never done before nor since. She pioneered mohair, leather, and jersey as well as bold color combinations. Cashin hardware signature.

You will find numerous illustrations in the book that show, in precise detail, the genius of this creator.What you won’t find is any detail left out about the development, the independence, the creativity of a genius and a woman who believed in herself and devoted her life to her craft.  She was always mentoring others and created the Innovative Design Fund to help aspiring designers, with original ideas in all areas of design, to make their creations marketable (again, an innovator….think Shark Tank!).

Bonnie Cashin found the perfect person, Stephanie Lake, to not only become a confidant but also one who thoroughly understood the importance of documenting her major contributions to the world of fashion and her incredible legacy. One who will continue to be the guardian and promoter of an innovator who did it her way and her way was perfection!  Bravo Bonnie, Bravo Stephanie!!!

Stephanie Lake’s superb portrait of a design genius is a MUST have for your fashion/lifestyle library.  A perfect gift for yourself and all your fashionista friends this Holiday season.  I love it so much it is the first book to be discussed in the newly formed Costume Council Fashion Book Club!

This week will continue to be a behind the scenes look at life in the Lake Residence, including more of Dr. Stephanie Lake’s one of a kind jewelry designs (, parties hosted with her husband, Cory, and daughter, Odette, in their art-filled home outside Minneapolis, and more archival images featured in Dr. Lake’s highly acclaimed Rizzoli title “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It” ( On Friday, in my Fashion Flashback, I will discuss my experiences with Bonnie Cashin!

All photos with the exception of the Laura still, courtesy of Stephanie Lake.





When I started my blog I had prepped by doing many interviews with friends and acquaintances and found them to be very revealing. In sharing them I hope you have enjoyed the “conversations” over the past few weeks.  I love making new friends and have found many through the short time I have been blogging.  One is Stephanie Lake, a jewelry designer extraordinaire, of one of a kind treasures, collector of wonderful objects, fabulous wife, mother, and the keeper of the Bonnie Cashin archives.  She is the author of the only, just published by Rizzoli, monograph on the designer, Bonnie Cashin: Chic is Where You Find It.  It is unbelievable that this amazing design pioneer hasn’t had multiple books written about her…but no mind, Stephanie has written the quintessential book…it will be reviewed tomorrow in Books Books Books. I’m doing something different this week and concentrating on Stephanie and Bonnie in all my posts.  My Fashion Flashback on Friday will be about my personal experiences with Bonnie Cashin’s appearances at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago, and visits in New York.

Now let’s get to know Dr. Stephanie Lake, my new BFF!

“The fifth scholar in the world to earn a Ph.D. in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, Stephanie Lake’s jewelry and interiors are informed by her work as a curator, archivist, and auction specialist. Lake’s academic focus on decorative arts from the 18th century to the current day centered on personal adornment, fashion, and interiors. Her research included stints in Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles, working with some of the world’s most extraordinary collections and collectors.” From Dr. Stephanie Lake’s bio.


Stephanie and Cory.  Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Lake


 I just adore this photo of 3-year-old Odette. Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Lake

Stephanie was kind enough to sit down with me at the Ritz Carlton to sip champagne and answer my profile questionnaire while she was recently in Chicago for a Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum program in conversation with Petra Slinkard, Curator of Costume of CHM.


Discussing her book during our interview at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Chicago. (I look like I have a toupee on top of my head!)  Photo by Cory Lake.


Stephanie being interviewed by Petra Slinkard to sold out audience at Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum event. Photo courtesy of the Chicago History Museum

The Interview…

NI:  When did your interest in Bonnie Cashin begin?

SL: I was working for Sotheby’s and a Cashin coat came up for auction. I was doing the caption for the catalog and I was absolutely stunned that I couldn’t pull a Cashin book off the shelf, we had a small fashion book library in our office. There was nothing to be found.  Here was an unbelievable untouched area in fashion history that I should investigate and then I started going around to museums and libraries as a scholar to find more, there was little to be found. I had worked at the V&A for a summer and was studying 18th-century dress and I happened to run into the director of FIT and I told her about my interest and she suggested her friend, June Weir, could put me in touch with Bonnie and I ended up with Bonnie’s phone number.  When I got in touch with her I told her I wanted to address historical neglect, I wanted to document everything, I want to be sure everyone knew about her. Knowing there was so little available information in the public domain, she sort of chuckled and agreed to meet me. We had tea and as you know walking into that wonderful apartment in her space at United Nations Plaza apartments, with all her collections from her travels, piles of cashmere sweaters, was extraordinary.  We spent a wonderful afternoon, we went to the elevator which came and went and came and went.  It was the beginning of a wonderful evolving friendship.  It was one fateful afternoon.

NI:  I think that is how she was, she either liked you or she could have cared less.

SL:  Absolutely, and I would see her when she didn’t like people, her eyes would glaze over and she would put up blinders of disinterest. She would say you are always different with different people.  Over the years I got to know all those different Bonnie’s.

NI: What did you want to do when you were a little girl?

SL: I thought I would be a lawyer, an editor or President!  Design and fashion were always there along with art. My grandmother was a painter and my parents had been involved in the fashion business.

NI:  When did it click that art/fashion was it?

SL: When I went off to college it was Art History, then in graduate school, it was decorative arts and culture, I wanted to concentrate on areas that weren’t taken as seriously and were marginalized. I was working in my college art office and a catalog arrived from Bard Graduate Center and it was on the history of wallpaper and I thought OMG this is serious.  I moved to London and I interviewed with them, it was a very small program.  The PHD had a handful of students at that time. Again a twist of fate that the catalog landed on my desk.

NI:  If you weren’t doing what you planned to do what would you be doing now…your jewelry, tell me about how that started.

SL:  My husband, Cory, we knew each other in high school and met again when we were in our 30’s and it was a fairytale romance.  We had places in New York, LA and Minneapolis and we decided, after trying all of them, that Minneapolis would become our base.  I was doing jewelry for my own collection, I was a big collector of vintage jewelry and couldn’t find much under five figures.  I went to New York and bought bags of stones and started making my own pieces.  Whenever I wore something I was asked where did you get that over and over. I started doing commissions and before I knew it I had a business. I didn’t start out with a business plan, I didn’t have any training in making jewelry, my background was in decorative arts and I had looked at all the beautiful things in the world.  It’s now a decade that I have had my own firm.  I don’t sell retail, I don’t advertise, but I have a national following and often an international following. I have collectors who have rooms dedicated to my pieces. I haven’t duplicated myself in 10 years.


One of Stephanie’s one of a kind pieces…amazing!  Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Lake.

NI: If you didn’t have your two careers what would you be doing, or what is the next step for Stephanie Lake?

SL:  Having a three-year-old daughter changes my purpose…since I am doing what I love I can have time with my husband and daughter and I haven’t thought of a new direction. I work from home and I am content with where I am in my career. My husband took two years off while I was writing the book so we could raise our daughter together.  And for a child in this day and age, it was a unique experience and we always felt she was an addition to the whole.  (An aside from Cory, “I felt it was very important and I wouldn’t have changed it!”)


NI:  Favorite movie?

SL:  It was a question I asked before we got married that if you liked these movies it was a go…they were Grey Gardens and Auntie Mame.  And he actually had to enjoy them. He did.  (Nena, “I want to be Auntie Mame”…Cory “I want to be Auntie Mame”).

NI:  Favorite book or genre.

SL:  Definitely biographies.

NI:  Culture…

SL:  Ballet, (our daughter is Odette for Swan Lake), Opera, Symphony, Legitimate Theater, Musicals (getting to like musicals more).

NI:  Type of music

SL:  Very eclectic when I am doing my jewelry, I am listening to music and it can be influential.  I don’t know which one influences the other.

NI: Type of food

SL:  Chef-driven restaurants, cities are driven by food culture and you can have many influences and Minneapolis is a foodie city.  We order in or go out but are beginning to cook a bit mostly because of having Odette, although she is very social and goes with us when we eat out.

NI: Hobbies?

SL:  All very connected to my work…antiquing in particular.  Our home is modern but has lots of traditional elements to it.  Huge skylights, neutral walls, a nice backdrop for our art and decorative arts collections. Local artists and iconic artists.  We do a lot of entertaining, we both have offices at home, the Bonnie Cashin collection, a child, so it is a very unique home.

NI:  Fantasy dinner party?

SL:  Bonnie Cashin

       Gypsy Rose Lee

      Two Duchesses of Devonshire…Debo and Georgiana

     Little Edie Beale

     Tony Duquette

     Truman Capote

     Cory Lake

     Odette Lake

    Stephanie Lake

Would serve champagne and caviar!  A couple after my own heart!!!!!!


Cory and Stephanie Lake.  Photo courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Lake

This week will be a behind the scenes look at life in the Lake Residence, including more of Dr. Stephanie Lake’s one of a kind jewelry designs (, parties hosted with her husband, Cory, and daughter, Odette, in their art-filled home outside Minneapolis, and archival images featured in Dr. Lake’s highly acclaimed Rizzoli title “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It” (


Having worked with around 200 designers and fashion and lifestyle personalities I had very few that were difficult to work with, actually, I think 5 in total.  My post today is one such designer.  You know by now that I don’t like to do negative posts so I will try to twist this into a positive piece!

I chose Oleg Cassini to profile today because the film, Jackie, has just opened and most of you will know Cassini as having designed Jackie Kennedy’s clothes, at least when she wasn’t wearing Parisian garments.  He was brought in to replicate the designs of Givenchy and Balenciaga and use the same fabrics.  He produced approximately 300 garments for Jackie when she was First Lady and Cassini was the first official First Lady designer. Cassini in his prime, movie star handsome. his wife Gene Tierney

Over the years, Cassini was romantically linked to many Hollywood actresses, but his most important relationship and collaboration were with actress, Gene Tierney, who was both his wife and his muse. As a costume designer. Cassini created the gowns wore by Tierney in The Razor’s Edge (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and Night and the City (1950). Interestingly Tierney’s costumes in Laura (1944), by far my favorite of her films, (although I do love The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, probably because I adore Rex Harrison in anything), were designed by then costume designer, Bonnie Cashin…profile upcoming on a Fashion Flashback.

Inaugural Ball gown by Oleg Cassini 1961 White House tour outfit, 1962.

All interesting but how does this relate to my working with him at Saks Fifth Avenue in the early 1960’s.  Cassini came to the Chicago store for several years to present formal shows of his collection to benefit the Catholic charity, Caritas, a favorite cause of the Kennedy’s, at the Chicago Hilton.  All the Kennedy ladies attended, including Rose, with the exception of Jackie. The show was, of course, modeled by professionals but the Kennedy ladies modeled as well with the exception of Rose. Cassini usually brought a “model” with him that we included in a couple of outfits.  The shows were always presented to a totally filled house.

His ready-to-wear collection was a total departure from the rest of Saks Fifth Avenue’s designer collections.  The collections were always provocative with deep keyhole necklines, slit bodices, to reveal bosom, certainly not the look of the First Lady he was designing for.  All the shows, during that time, were commentated and if a designer so wished they did the commentating.  Cassini was always very outspoken (to say the least!) and more often than not brought gasps from the audiences.  As we always did when we had a personal appearance of a designer, we presented the full show for the staff, before store opening, as well as doing a formal show for invited devotees of that particular collection. He didn’t change his verbiage for any of the presentations  One never knew how far he would go not only with his designs but with his words. Being  very seductive, sexy collections, I had to find models that weren’t the typical body structure we were use to, although in the 1950’s and early 1960’s the models were a bit curvier.  In particular, I needed bosom for the deep decolletage, and narrow hips (one can flatten but hard to enhance what isn’t there!!!).  Once I found them I used them for all the Cassini events and in some other shows as well.  The garments pictured below look very tame today…but, believe me, they were very risque.  We sold the collection like crazy, there wasn’t anything else like it. deep slit neckline

Modified raised neckline sample would have been much deeper cut very low in sample piece

Now, you might wonder why I found Mr. Cassini a difficult designer to work with…well he verbally abused the models and staff, as well as making lewd comments to the models and I would not then nor now have anyone working with me to be mistreated in any way.  You can say what you like to me but not anyone who works with me!  Also remember I was very young and was standing up to a major designer/personality, it took a lot of guts to tell him that the Store would not put up with such behavior, fortunately for me, my Store Manager, Hal Clyne, totally agreed with me and Mr. Cassini’s days were numbered at the Chicago store.  A total shame and loss of business but he definitely went too far.  Can you imagine that happening today…I can’t nor did we have that from any other of our many other creators, they were gentlemen and ladies. The Cassini label can now be seen in quite beautiful wedding dresses.

For more on Oleg Cassini see his autobiography In My Own Fashion

 A Thousand Days of Magic

The Wedding Dress


I say always start with the best…the best in this post is the amazing collection, of blue and white porcelain, of fashion designer extraordinaire, Andrew Gn (actually one of his many eclectic collections). I was fortunate to work with Andrew a few weeks ago to present his Spring/Summer 2017 Collection at a luncheon he hosted at a private club for members and guests of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum.  I will be doing an in-depth profile about Andrew and his collection and his answers to my questionnaire in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, you can enjoy one of the rooms in this creative genius’ exquisite home.


What I particularly love about this room is the wonderful mix of multiple periods and the flash of color, all of which compliment the blue and white collection to perfection, but that is the Andrew Gn style.  This photo appeared in an extensive article on Andrew in Elle Decor a year or so ago. Brilliant.

The next photo is from one of Carolyne Roehm’s homes, she is a major advocate of blue and white and also combines it with many other colors and periods.  I greatly admire her work and had the privilege of working with her when she was in the fashion industry, producing exquisite garments when she brought a collection to Chicago for a big charity fashion show.  Her homes and her books are unbelievably beautiful. I have all of her books, hope you do as well…if not what are you waiting for, get them!!!! and white tablescape from Carolyne Roehm’s book A PASSION FOR  BLUE AND WHITE…oh my! photo that was featured in Veranda Magazine (another of my favorite things!!!!) of Carolyne Roehm’s love affair with blue and white.  Perhaps in any other hands overkill not so with this creator.

Now let’s look at more modest collections (although Margaret’s is extraordinary, I’ve been with her when she has found new treasures, actually at Randolph Street Market!) but none the less loved by their owners and each piece, just like Andrew’s, tell a tale and the collectors are always seeking new additions that can fill a missing period or particular style or shape.

imageA wall in Margaret Buckman’s home of some of her wonderful collection.  You read my blog profile on Margaret a couple of weeks ago and you will hear more about her as we continue our journey of Margaret’s art, textiles, and antiquities.

imageA close up of one of Margaret’s shelves.

imageAnother area of Margaret’s collection, all in her dining room.  Love the mix of modern and antiquities.


imageThe beginning of a blue and white collection in the solarium at an estate in Michigan.

Last 5 photos by Nena.

I must admit, I am not a huge fan of blue and white…I know, I know, I’m in the minority, but I’m a green gal, always have been.  My mother would have been in heaven seeing this posting, she adored anything blue in all shades!  If I wanted to analyze this posting I would say, it is educating me to something I know little about other than most magnificent homes always have blue and white collections displayed in one or many rooms. I guess I need to educate myself further and perhaps get a piece or two.

I will leave you today by sharing one of my Father’s watercolors of a Stuben crystal rooster my parents owned and he wanted to capture in paint…it is a treasure and my bow to owning blue and white!image


Libraries…you already know my fetish for books and I have shared a couple photos of some of my bookshelves, I’ll do more of mine today, but wanted to do one of my friends as well.

imageA friend’s home in Indiana, I love bookshelves that house paintings, photos and other memorabilia as well as treasured books, mine certainly do.

imageA portion of my fashion book collection in custom built-ins from, of all places, Calfornia Closets! The collection of art on the left…top a sketch by the brilliant creator, Michael Vollbracht, under that a pen and ink sketch by my Father, Ivon, on the right top, the pink lady watercolor, you have seen before, also by Ivon and under it a rendering, in watercolor, by one of my model girls after a vintage print.  You can also see that I have books stacked on the floor and art going up the side of the shelving…I use each and every space in my home, but I think you already know that!

imageThe wall next to the built-ins was a niche that I had shelves, they are starting to bow, made to fit into.  More fashion books, my Victor Skrebneski book collection as well as various other tomes.  You can see a tiny portion of the needlepoint bell hanging done for me by a friend as a Christmas gift many years ago (one of the few pieces I didn’t do myself) of violets…one never knows when one needs to summon staff!!!! The top three images shot by Nena.

imageI have no idea where I got this image, but I want to live here!!!!

imageAnd here as well….Juniper Books does it again!!!! Can you even imagine!!!!

Wednesday’s recipe

From Sophie’s Executive Chef Ron Aleman’s Recipe Box

Holiday Cranberry Chutney

1# fresh  cranberries
1.5 cups orange juice
2oz granulated sugar (or sub preferred sweetener)
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 medium gala Apple, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped walnuts

Place the cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon in a small to
medium sized sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Add the dried cranberries and
cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until
desired consistency is reached.

Remove from heat and fold in the diced apple and chopped walnuts.

This chutney can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.


imageUPROOTED by the unbelievably talented, Mike Hines. Incredible photographs by Doug Human.

I honestly don’t know what I expected when I heard Mike Hines was doing a book, it most certainly wasn’t what I found when I opened it!  What I expected, lots of color, lots of style, perhaps a glimpse at Mike’s achievements via his event work, private client parties, amazing hotel installations, I suppose another book on flowers and their beauty…this isn’t the book at all!  It is a book like no other.  What it is is a look into Mike’s being and how he translates that in his private work. Using nature in its purest form is the basis of this book which uses very little verbiage but relies on the visual for its impact. he forces the viewer (can’t say the reader, although Mike’s words, at the beginning and spliced throughout the chapters, give you even more depth of the creator).

imageMy favorite image from the book, love it!

I quote Mike’s thoughts in his introduction to UPROOTED: “Roots beget flowers.  Roots also begin families, relationships, and emotions.  When we uproot and expose, we explore.” This philosophy forms the basis of the book…using roots, twigs, stems, seeds, dirt, wood, horn, etc. (and flowers, of course), Mike creates the raw beauty of nature.  The book was shot in three days, which I find totally incredible!  But knowing Mike, that is exactly the way he wanted it.  Idea born, idea formed, idea produced, idea over and done!

imageAnother image with a hint of color.  Mike occasionally used white, green and red against his monochromatic palette for the book.

Perhaps a bit dark for many, I feel it is pure genius not only the creations featured but the photography, by Doug Human, which intensifies the moody, very sexy arrangements.  It will, most certainly, change your mind on what a floral arrangement should be, and why not think differently that is what creativity is all about, challenging oneself to think beyond the norm.  I hope you love the book and Mike’s amazing journey as much as I do.

Mike will be delighted to sign your book and you can purchase it directly from  A perfect gift for all your trendy friends for the Holidays.  Believe me, they won’t have a “flower” book like it on their coffee table!  (No compensation, just a love of a friend, prompted this piece!)