Anne Cole

Our featured designer this week is Anne Cole.  Anne Cole is the original woman and creator behind the swimwear label that bears her own name.  Cole started as a child model for her family’s swimwear line and later on started Anne Cole Swimwear as a sister label to her family’s line.  When Cole was younger, her father went to work at the family business, West Coast Knitting Mills, which at the times manufactured longjohns.  Cole’s father saw the opportunity to product swimsuits and in 1941 the swimwear line was so successfully the company changed its name to Cole of California.

Cole joined the family business in the early 1950’s and worked out of the New York City office.  She worked in almost every position in the company, from sales and marketing to merchandising.  In 1955, Cole persuaded Christian Dior to create a swimwear collection for the family’s swimwear line.  It was the only time Dior designed swimwear.

In 1960, Cole’s father sold Cole of California to Kayser-Roth, but Cole remained on as an employee.  Years later, Anne Cole would come out with their first innovative design, a one piece black mesh swimsuit, which became known as the Scandal Suit.  A decade after that, Bob Mackie would design a line for Anne Cole Swimwear, a gown designer for Hollywood celebrities.  Cole recalls on the designs and other swimwear designers, . “And their idea of a sexy woman, was someone who wore a suit that was plunged to the navel and everything hangs out…. But women know they are sexy. They don’t have to wear a bathing suit that says, ‘I am sexy.’ Woman should wear the swimsuit. The swimsuit shouldn’t wear them and take over.”

After so much publicity, Cole started thinking about creating her own swimwear line.  “Most of my life I loved working for my father because it really meant something.  Then as I got older, I realized that I was going to be dead and gone without ever having done something on my own. Now that got to me.”  In 1982, Anne Cole Swimwear was born.  She remarks on her start up, “I wanted to design a swimsuit that had the kind of Calvin Klein tailored-clothes look.  I was aiming at the woman who wanted to wear to the beach the same kind of tailored but tasteful and sexy clothes.”

Anne Cole Swimsuits are known for their innovative designs, this became apparent in the 1998 when the company introduced the tankini.  The tankini is a two-piece swimsuit that has the illusion of a one piece.  The tankini was Cole’s biggest hit in the swimwear industry. Cole had originally designed the tankini for athletes but when she ventured into resort swimwear she said, “all these women in their 40s and their 30s and those who hadn’t worn bikinis for a long time were squealing in the dressing room. ‘Ooh, look at me. I’m in a two-piece suit’ They were taking in a rebirth of their youth.  There is no such thing as a bad figure.  There are just bad swimsuits.”  Cole is now in her seventies but still active in Anne Cole Swimwear production and design.  Her favorite spot is the French Riviera, where she always finds new and chic ideas, “I once saw a woman in a gunmetal gray maillot. I’ve never forgotten that suit. I love the idea of using fall colors. Maybe they’ll finally let me do it.”

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