Anne Cole, 1927 – 2017

I missed this in January: Anne Cole, the California swimwear maker died Jan. 10, 2017 in Beverly Hills at the age of 90.

Her father, Fred Cole, founded Cole of California in 1925 – a swimwear division of the family-owned knitted underwear business West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills. Cole of California swimwear took off in 1950 when Hollywood actress and swimmer Esther Williams became the brand’s spokesmodel.

Anne Cole graduated from college and dabbled in theater before joining the family business. She became the company’s top seller, handling accounts for Saks, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. In 1960 Cole of California was sold to Kayser-Roth; a number of owners followed until it was acquired by Authentic Fitness Corporation in 1990 when Cole of California was merged with Catalina to form Catalina-Cole.

In 1982 Anne stepped out on her own, creating the first Anne Cole Collection. Anne was a marketer not a designer. She employed young designers to create swimwear she knew would sell well. The line’s best seller was the tankini. The design which debuted in 1998 was based on what many California women were already wearing in the 90s to go swimming – tank tops and bikini bottoms.

In 2008 Anne Cole was sold to the In Mocean Group for $26 million.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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