Altina Schinasi was an American artist, designer, and inventor who left an indelible mark on fashion and eyewear. Born in 1907 in New York City, Schinasi was the daughter of a Turkish-Jewish tobacco tycoon. She studied art at the Art Students League of New York and became a prolific artist, sculptor, and filmmaker.
But her work as a designer and inventor would make her a household name. In the 1930s, Schinasi began experimenting with eyeglass frames, creating bold, colorful designs unlike anything seen before. Her most famous creation was the “Harlequin” frame, which featured a distinctive cat-eye shape and bold patterns.
The Harlequin frame quickly became a fashion sensation worn by Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. It was also a favorite of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore a pair of Schinasi’s glasses in the iconic photo of her standing on the steps of Air Force One after her husband’s assassination.
Schinasi’s innovative spirit extended beyond fashion, however. She was also an inventor, creating several devices to improve everyday life. One of her most famous inventions was a device to help people with disabilities use typewriters more easily. She also invented a device to help people with arthritis open jars.
But Schinasi’s legacy extends beyond her work as a designer and inventor. She was also a passionate activist for social justice and civil rights. In the 1960s, she became involved with the civil rights movement, working with figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. She even wrote a screenplay about the life of Parks, which she delivered to King in person.
Schinasi passed away in 1999 at 92, but her legacy lives on. Her iconic Harlequin frame is still a favorite of fashionistas and vintage collectors worldwide, and her innovative spirit and commitment to social justice inspire new generations of artists, designers, and activists.
Google Doodle Celebrates Altina Schinasi’s Legacy
On August 4th, 2023, Google celebrated Altina Schinasi’s legacy with a special Google Doodle. The Doodle featured an illustration of Schinasi wearing her iconic Harlequin glasses,
surrounded by colorful patterns and designs. The Doodle was created by artist Sophie Diao, who said Schinasi’s bold and innovative spirit inspired her.
In a statement, Google said, “Altina Schinasi was a true pioneer, a woman who broke boundaries and defied expectations in everything she did. We are honored to celebrate her legacy today and share her story with people worldwide.”
The Google Doodle was just one of many tributes to Schinasi that have been made over the years. In 2019, the Museum of the City of New York held an exhibition of Schinasi’s work featuring her art, films, and eyewear designs. The show was titled “Altina Schinasi: Visionary.”
Schinasi’s legacy continues to inspire people around the world, particularly women in the fields of art, design, and technology. Her innovative spirit and commitment to social justice serve as a reminder that anyone can make a difference, regardless of their background or circumstances.
Schinasi once said, “The only way to do anything is to do it. And the only way to do it right is with love.”