Anne Cole Estate Gifts $2.5 Million to Otis College of Art and Design

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Anne Cole

An academic building will be dedicated to the late L.A. swimwear designer (and daughter of 1920s silent film star Fred Cole) on Sept. 6.

On Wednesday, the Otis College of Art and Design announced the receipt of a $2.5 million bequest from the estate of late Los Angeles swimwear designer Anne Cole. The gift will be used to endow the Anne Cole Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance to fashion design majors. Additionally, the school has announced that it will dedicate the academic building housing the fashion department as the Anne Cole Building on Sept. 6 on the Elaine and Bram Goldsmith campus.

Cole is the daughter of 1920s silent film star Fred Cole (Secrets of the Night, The Dangerous Blonde), who founded the swimwear company Cole of California, a division of the family business West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills. She, too, pursued acting and worked with Gregory Peck at the La Jolla Playhouse before returning to L.A. in the 1950s to work in her father’s business, which used actress-swimmer Esther Williams as a model. In 1982, Cole launched her eponymous swimwear label and made a splash by pioneering the tankini swimsuit silhouette in the late 1990s.

For years, Cole (who died in 2017 at age 90) served as a mentor to fashion students studying swimwear design at the Otis College of Art and Design. In this role, she mentored and critiqued projects of junior and senior students during design development, sketch selection and fittings, according to the school.

"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 fashion design department chair Jill Zeleznik in a statement. "She gave so generously of her time and expertise and was always a strong supporter of the fashion design department. … Her feedback and knowledge were invaluable to the future of designers."