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Established in 2000, the Bonnie Cashin Archive is among the most significant fashion collections in the world.  It is owned in its entirety by Cashin’s heir and biographer, Dr. Stephanie Lake, the foremost expert on Cashin’s life and career. Cashin referred to her as her “little sister.”


Consisting of thousands of items, the Archive charts Cashin’s near-century of life in design and as a “mother” of American sportswear.  From iconic garments to her own reference library, personal photographs, voice recordings, design illustrations, fine art, diaries, textile samples, and press archive, the collection is singular in its depth and range.

As described by legendary fashion editor Eugenia Sheppard in 1963, “Bonnie Cashin isn’t just fashion.   She has become a cult.”   Jonathan Adler’s declaration “I worship at the altar of Bonnie Cashin,” and his “Ten Commandments of Cashinism” (written as the foreword for Lake’s Cashin monograph) define the spirit of providing access and exploration into this unparalleled collection.

The fifth scholar in the world to earn a PhD in the History of Decorative Arts, Design and Material Culture (Bard Graduate Center), Lake’s interest in Cashin’s work began during her graduate studies and while working as a researcher for Sotheby’s Fashion Department. As first documented by The New York Times and WWD,  a classic “New York story” and fashion fairy tale ensued. 


When word of Lake’s academic intention to “redress historical neglect” of Cashin’s career reached the designer, the then-student was invited to tea at Cashin’s iconic U.N. Plaza Apartment.  The rapport between the two was such that Cashin granted unprecedented and exclusive access to Lake. She became the subject of Lake’s master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation.

Until Cashin’s death in 2000, the two spent their time together discussing and documenting Cashin’s career, including her wishes for her personal archive and design legacy.  Upon her passing, Lake was told "Bonnie wanted you to have everything." While still a student, Lake curated the first major retrospective of Cashin’s work, “Bonnie Cashin: Practical Dreamer,” (FIT) and worked across the globe and with regional sites within the U.S. on exhibitions of Cashin’s designs, including shows in Tokyo with Coach (Mitsukoshi) and for the Goldstein Gallery for its 25th anniversary. 

Cashin's executors appointed Lake to the role of chief adviser to Cashin’s estate, including all aspects of the estate’s philanthropic giving, Lake created a multi-million dollar network of endowed gifts in Cashin’s name.  As stipulated by Lake and detailed in her mission statements, these include the Bonnie Cashin Fund at the New York Community Trust, The Bonnie Cashin Research and Travel Grant at the Bard Graduate Center, and The Bonnie Cashin Memorial Fund at FIT. At UCLA, Lake structured a $1.5 million dollar endowment for The Bonnie Cashin Lecture Series as well as the care and exhibition of Cashin’s professional papers. Lake identified and donated some 7,000 items to their Department of Special Collections as a companion collection to her personal archive. She served as UCLA's curator and museum scientist in charge, creating the open source Cashin database in use today. Lake also wrote and presided over the installation of Bonnie Cashin’s marker on New York’s Fashion Walk of Fame and established the now-defunct Bonnie Cashin Foundation where she served as Creative Director. 

Lake published the definitive monograph on Cashin’s life and work, “Bonnie Cashin: Chic is Where You Find it.” (Rizzoli) and works with major museums and educational institutions to facilitate research and archival loans, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, The Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Projects in development include expansive digital archival access and immersive experiences with Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan, Ruben Toledo, Isaac Mizrahi, Beverly Johnson, Cameron Silver, Liz Goldwyn, Jeffrey Banks, John Tiffany, Nena Ivon, and Cashin’s family attached, charting a traveling Cashin exhibition throughout the U.S., documenting Cashin's Armenian history in California, and considering the opening of a public space for the Archive as an American fashion destination. Lake promotes inclusion of Cashin’s work in international scholarship and exhibitions, editorial coverage, post-secondary course curriculum, public lectures, and actively shares archival material on numerous social media platforms, including the Instagram account  “BonnieCashinArchive.”

Lake collaborates with notables in diverse fields, providing exclusive access to the Archive as source material and inspiration for new work, such as Olivia Cheng's patterning of Cashin garments for her Dauphinette collections. In this, Lake expands her stewardship of Cashin’s legacy to not only celebrate the significance of Cashin’s contributions to the design world throughout her career, but to also highlight Cashin’s singular role as a muse to generations of designers, and secure her place as a national treasure, an honor ascribed to her by legendary photographer Bill Cunningham.

“Bonnie Cashin in Review: History and the Archive,” produced by Ignite Models / Envision, filmed by Gabe Hostetler / Young Vision Films, Art Directed by John Mark, filmed at the  Lake residence.

Collection Access

Open Source access to the Bonnie Cashin Archive is pending.  Please contact us for specific research or loan queries.  

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