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Cole of California


Institution: Cole of California
Cole of California began as the swimwear division of the West Coast Knitting Mills when Fred Cole, a former actor, joined the family firm in 1925. He directed his passion for glamour, beauty and theatre into designing women's swimwear that aimed to be a fashion statement rather than a purely functional garment.

Cole maintained his links to Hollywood by employing cinema costume designers and making swimsuits for film stars. Esther Williams signed a modelling contract with Cole of California which included an annual swimear design named after the star.

From 1936 to 1972 the company employed former theatrical designer Margit Felligi as head designer. She introduced innovations such as the use of synthetic fibres including Lastex, nylon and spandex. In 1965 Felligi created a one-piece suit with a plunging net front aptly named the 'Scandal Suit'.

Cole of California continues to manufacture swimwear, and Fred Cole's daughter Anne designs for the related company Anne Cole.