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NEW YORK — Anne Cole continues to shoulder the business her father, Fred, founded in 1925. Sometimes that means looking your customer square in the eye.
She made her first in-store appearance in years at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship last month.
“There’s nothing like facing your customer,” she said. “I say what’s on my mind. I have to be careful not to be too circumspect.”
Saks sold 65 units during Cole’s cameo — double the daily average at this time of year. Saks first picked up to the brand in 1982.
What did Cole pick up on this go-around? Women are looking for prints, fuller cuts, vintage styles and more colorful options. They are also more willing to try different sizes and styles once they know someone is helping them. Cole is known to dash from dressing rooms to the sales floors to get them what they need. Saks shoppers also like the looks of Anne Cole Locker, a collection of sportswear-inspired separates offered in different sizes that debuted last summer.
“I don’t know why bathing suits were ever sold any other way,” Cole said.
When she was a teenager, she had her own makeshift version of swim separates — a halter top paired with boys’ trunks. Not everyone was impressed with it.
“My father made me sit down on the beach,” Cole recalled. “I was not allowed to sit on the family towel.”
Today’s variation is a Marilyn Monroe-inspired halter, a bestseller for Anne Cole Locker.
As a young woman, Cole loved scouting Jones Beach on Long Island for swimwear inspiration, but Club 55 in St. Tropez remains her all-time favorite.
“It’s the chicest beach I’ve ever been to,” she said. “In the south of France, 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.”
For two weeks last month, Saks used its 50th Street windows to showcase swimsuits provided by Cole and dating back to 1875. One gold-colored number worn by Esther Williams and a beaded style that sold for $1,000 in 1950 were among the jewels. Text painted on the windows gave a nod to the company’s founder: “The legend of Cole lives today with Anne Cole.”