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Otis College of Art and Design Receives $2.5M Bequest from Anne Cole Estate

Will Dedicate Academic Building in Honor of Designer and Longstanding Mentor

Otis College of Art and Design is extremely pleased to announce a $2.5M bequest from the Estate of Anne Cole to endow the Anne Cole Scholarship Fund, which will provide student aid to Fashion Design majors at the College. Anne Cole, who passed in 2017 at age 90, was an iconic Californian swimwear designer, creator of the tankini, and devoted fashion mentor to students at the College. In honor of her contribution, Otis College of Art and Design will rename the current building housing the Fashion Design department as the Anne Cole Building on Friday, September 6, at 2:30 pm on the Elaine and Bram Goldsmith Campus. The naming ceremony will include students, faculty, staff, and friends of the College.

“Anne Cole mentored Otis fashion students eight times because she respected the quality of work they produced and she adored the company of creative young adults. Past students will always remember their time with her, as future students will have a dream realized when they receive a scholarship in her name,” said Rosemary Brantley, fashion designer and Chair Emeritus of the Otis College Fashion Design Program since 1980.

In 2016, the Fashion Design department moved from a location in the downtown L.A. Fashion District to a new building on the College’s main campus developed by the acclaimed Los Angeles-based architecture firms of Ehrlich Architects and Frederick Fisher and Partners. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum building was a Los Angeles Architectural Award Winner in 2018 in the Education sector, and currently houses the studios and administrative offices for the Fashion Design department.

“As a leader in the swimwear business, Anne Cole had a tremendous impact on our students and the Department as a mentor for decades. 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,” said Jill Zeleznik, Chair, Fashion Design Department.

Mentors offer assessment of Junior and Senior student work via critique of mentored projects during design development, sketch selection, and fittings. In the course of the academic year, each Fashion Design student works with two different mentors who provide design direction. After receiving direction from mentors, students engage in a rigorous process to define and clarify the conceptual basis of the design problem with weekly guidance from their faculty. This pedagogical approach embodies the program’s teaching philosophy, which advocates student learning through direct interaction with industry professionals.

“Anne Cole was my design mentor and dear friend for over three decades,” adds Rod Beattie, class of ’86 and Creative Director/Designer for Bleu/Rod Beattie. “Born into an apparel manufacturing family, she became an icon of the American Swimwear Industry. Anne was a unique character with a rebellious spirit. She had a vision of creating modern swimwear for the modern woman—swimwear that was simple, chic, and with a contemporary spirit. Her incredible bequest to Otis College will support the next generation of fashion designers and will have an immeasurable impact on lives.”

Otis College of Art and Design, formerly known at Otis Art Institute, was founded in 1918 with a bequest from General Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the Los Angeles Times, who gifted his home on MacArthur Park “for the advancement of the Arts.”

Image credit: Otis College Fashion Design students working in the Anne Cole Building Image: Paul Turang Photography, Courtesy of Frederick Fisher and Partners.