Anne Cole

On Sept. 6, Otis College of Art and Design’s Academic Building will officially be renamed the Anne Cole Building, in honor of the late swimwear designer and L.A. style legend who gifted the school $2.5 million to establish the Anne Cole Scholarship Fund for students in its fashion design program.

Cole, who died at age 90 in early 2017, was a longtime mentor and supporter of the Los Angeles-based school, established in 1918.

“Past students will always remember their time with her,” said Rosemary Brantley, fashion designer and chair emeritus of the school’s fashion design program since the Eighties. “Future students will have a dream realized when they receive a scholarship in her name.”

Cole is best known for inventing the tankini in the Nineties under her namesake label, started in 1982. She was the daughter of Fred Cole, a silent film actor who in 1925 founded Cole of California, a swimwear company that helped establish L.A. as a center of the industry. Anne grew up in the Hollywood scene, watching her father outfit silver screen starlet and swimmer Esther Williams, who was the face of the Cole of California brand. He also collaborated with Hollywood costume designer Margit Fellegi in the Thirties and produced swimwear for Christian Dior in the Fifties.

It was through working with her father that Anne got her start in the fashion industry, first in the mailroom before climbing the ranks to executive vice president in the Sixties and leading efforts to expand the company to New York City. Later, under her own line — Anne Cole — she became a leading swimsuit designer and joined the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 1993 and again in 2001, she was awarded Otis College of Art and Design’s Otis Creative Vision Award.

Otis College of Art and Design

Fashion design students at work at Otis College of Art and Design.  Paul Turang Photography/Courtesy of Frederick Fisher and Partners

“As a leader in the swimwear business, Anne Cole had a tremendous impact on our students and the department as a mentor for decades,” said the school’s fashion design department chair Jill Zeleznik in a statement. The Anne Cole Building, designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners, houses fashion design studios and faculty offices. “She gave so generously of her time and expertise and was always a strong supporter of the fashion design department. Under her guidance as a mentor, her feedback and knowledge were invaluable to the future of designers.”

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