Nostalgia Sunday – Gottex retrospective

February 3, 2013 - 11:04 PM by

Gottex-barFrom the 1970s onwards, the brand name Gottex was synonymous with Israeli fashion. Named for its founders, the Gottlieb family, Gottex and its legendary head designer Lea Gottleib, the First Lady of Israeli fashion, were credited for bringing bathing suits into the realm of high fashion.

Before she died this past November, at the age of 96, Gottlieb was involved in the creation of a retrospective of her life’s work. Curators from the Design Museum Holon met with Gottlieb at her home where they sorted through thousands of items. The resulting exhibition, A Tribute to Leah Gottlieb 1918-2012, will be the opening event at Holon Design Week, starting next month.

The first section of the Tribute exhibition, curated by fashion historian Ayala Raz will include historical items from collections of the late 1970s to early 1990s, including items from Gottlieb’s personal collection.

A quick run-down of the company’s history, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Gottlieb and her family survived the war, and after the liberation, she and her husband ran a raincoat factory in Czechoslovakia. They emigrated to Haifa, Israel, in 1949…With money borrowed from family and friends, she and her husband opened a similar raincoat factory near Tel Aviv in 1949. But for months, they ‘saw no rain, only sunshine’. As a result, in 1956 they founded Gottex…”

“She sold her wedding ring for capital, bought fabric, borrowed a sewing machine and began to design swimsuits that were unique to Israel, inspired by the local Middle-Eastern light and colors: “the aqua of the Mediterranean, the golden yellow of the desert, the blue of Lake Tiberias, the pink of Jerusalem stone and the greens of the Galilee.”

“In Gottlieb’s vision, Gottex collections can be worn “from pool to the bar,” and then to a restaurant or cocktail parties. In addition to swimsuits, Gottex produces caftans, tunics and trousers, combining swimwear and beachwear.

“By 1984, Gottex had sales of $40 million ($89 million in current dollar terms), and was the leading exporter of fashion swimwear to the United States, and had two-thirds of the Israeli swimwear market. Among those who wore the company’s bathing suits were Diana, Princess of Wales, Spain’s Queen Sofia, Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields and Nancy Kissinger. The company’s 1984 strapless one-piece swimsuit became the most widely sold style in the world. In 1991, almost half of the company’s $60 million business was in the United States.

“Lev Leviev, the owner of the Africa-Israel Group, acquired Gottex in 1997. After about a year heading the design team, Gottlieb left the company. Once her non-compete agreement with Gottex expired, at the age of 85 she founded a new swimwear design company, under her own name.”

Also according to Wikipedia, in the spirit of Israeli innovation, “Gottex is a pioneer of swimsuits with hard-cup bras. Gottex is known for using innovative fabrics. It was the first manufacturer to introduce Spandex [to swimwear].”

The contemporary section of the Tribute exhibition will present swimsuit designs by Gottex’s current artistic director, Molly Grad. Another part of the exhibition, “Me and bathing suit”, will examine the broader social issues of modern swimwear design.

The exhibition, A Tribute to Leah Gottlieb 1918-2012, opens in March and will run through May 2013. For more information, visit the Design Museum Holon website.

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