Cole of California started as a swimwear division of the West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills. West Coast was a maker of men’s long knit underwear, owned by the Cole family. In 1925 son Fred Cole, who had been working as an actor, was convinced to join the family business. He did not find making underwear very interesting, so he decided to make bathing suits that had a glamourous, Hollywood edge.
From 1936 through 1972, the company’s head designer was former theatrical designer, Margit Felligi. Felligi was responsible for many innovations in the swimwear industry, such as the use of Lastex fabric, nylon and spandex. She was known for her creative use of fabrics. And in 1965 she rocked the swimsuit world with her “Scandal Suit,” a daring one-piece suit with a plunging net front.
In 1951 (before she had her own line) Esther Williams was the spokeswoman for Cole swimsuits. One ad read:
“Here’s the perfect suit for real swimmers… the best I’ve ever worn. It will really do something for your form – in or out of the water.”
The company is still producing swimwear, and there is a sister company, Anne Cole, which is designed by Anne, Fred Cole’s daughter.
Written by Lizzie Bramlett, fuzzylizzie.com