Google Doodle Celebrates Altina Schinasi, the Designer Behind the Stylish ‘Cat-Eye’ Eyeglass Frames
Google is marking the 116th birthday of Altina ‘Tina’ Schinasi, an American designer renowned for creating the iconic ‘cat-eye’ eyeglass frame, with a special doodle on August 4. Born in 1907 in Manhattan, New York, to immigrant parents, Altina Schinasi’s creative journey led her from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the vibrant art scene of Paris. There, after completing high school, Altina Schinasi pursued her passion for painting. This celebration of her life is highlighted in a Google Doodle blog post.
Altina Schinasi’s artistic skills flourished further at The Art Students League in New York City, where she simultaneously worked as a window dresser for several stores along Fifth Avenue. This period allowed Altina Schinasi to collaborate with and learn from artistic legends such as Salvador Dalí and George Grosz, whose influences significantly shaped her creative vision.
Schinasi’s groundbreaking idea for the “cat-eye” eyeglass frame emerged during her time as a window display designer. Frustrated by the lack of innovation in women’s eyeglass designs, which were mostly round and uninspiring, Altina Schinasi set out to create a novel and distinct option.
The inspiration for her design came from the captivating shapes of Harlequin masks worn during Venice, Italy’s Carnevale festival. These masks sparked Altina Schinasi’s imagination to envision eyeglass frames with pointed, upturned edges that would beautifully enhance the wearer’s face. Despite facing rejections from major manufacturers who found her concept too unconventional, Schinasi remained persistent, crafting paper prototypes of her innovative design.
Altina Schinasi’s breakthrough finally arrived when a local shop owner recognized the potential of her concept and secured an exclusive agreement for six months. In the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Harlequin Spectacles quickly garnered recognition and became a fashion icon among women.
With her design, Altina Schinasi received much praise, including the esteemed Lord & Taylor American Design Award in 1939. Esteemed fashion publications like Vogue and Life took note of her significant contribution to the fashion world.
In addition to her design work, Altina Schinasi ventured into filmmaking, producing a captivating documentary titled “George Grosz’ Interregnum” about her former teacher, the renowned artist George Grosz. The documentary garnered praise, earning an Academy Award nomination and claiming the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1960.
As time marched on, Altina Schinasi continued to explore new artistic avenues. In her later years, she penned her memoir titled “The Road I Have Travelled,” offering insights into her extraordinary life journey. Additionally, Altina Schinasi dedicated her time to volunteering as an art therapist, using her creative talents to bring solace and healing to others.
“Nearly 100 years after its invention, Altina’s cat-eye design is still having an impact on global trends in fashion accessories. Happy birthday to the woman who was a visionary in more ways than one!” Google shared in their blog post.
The legacy of Altina Schinasi and her innovative ‘cat-eye’ eyeglass frames remains significant. Her unique design transformed eyewear for women and left an indelible mark on the fashion industry, captivating generations with its timeless allure. As Google honours her 116th birthday, Altina’s pioneering spirit and creative ingenuity are celebrated anew through her enduring contributions to art and fashion.