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Jantzen

Institution: Jantzen
Carl Jantzen founded the Portland Knitting Company in 1910 with John and Roy Zehntbauerg in Portland, Oregon, USA. The company initially produced woollen jumpers, gloves and hosiery. The Jantzen name was first used as a trademark in advertising in 1916 and the company name was changed to the Jantzen Knitting Mills in 1918. In 1957 it changed to Jantzen Inc and in 2008 Jantzen was a division and wholly owned subsidiary of Perry Ellis International Inc.

The company was approached by a member of the Portland Rowing Club in 1913 with a request to produce knitted rowing trunks for use in cold weather. A one-piece rowing suit was also made and tested; it weighed a hefty 3.63 kg when wet. This soon led to a demand for a lighter weight bathing costume that offered the same freedom of movement as the rowing suit. By 1915 the company's catalogue featured a rib-knit bathing suit and a patent for a rib-knit bathing suit was granted in 1921.

The success of these early garments led to a bold marketing plan that sought to change perceptions of bathing from a medicinal and therapeutic activity to an active recreational pastime. In 1921 Jantzen launched an advertising campaign with the 'red diving girl' logo and the slogan 'The Suit that Changed Bathing into Swimming'. This campaign saw the first use of the term 'swimming suit' which was used thereafter. In 1922 the company started National Jantzen Week as a strategy to boost sales. This subsequently became Jantzen Learn-to-Swim-Week.

In 1928 Jantzen opened its first overseas manufacturing factory in Sydney. Australia was chosen because of its favourable swimming climate. Operating as Jantzen Australia Pty Ltd, it wan in direct competition with Speedo and other Australian swimwear manufacturers such as Black Lance. In the 1930s Jantzen introduced the bra-lift swimsuit for women using Lastex rubberised yarn which gave swimsuits greater shape and structure. The 'Topper', a men's tank suit with removable zip top, was introduced in the 1930s paving the way for topless bathing for men and boys.

The development of synthetic fabrics by DuPont, such as quick-dry nylon in 1938 and Lycra-spandex in 1959, ensured the trend to snug, form fitting garments and ongoing innovation in swimwear technology and design.