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Lea Gottlieb (September 17, 1918 - November 17, 2012) was an Israeli fashion designer and businesswoman.[1] She immigrated to Israel from Hungary after World War II, and founded the Gottex company.[3][4][5][6]

Lea Gottlieb
Leah Gottlieb.jpg
Leah Lenke Roth[1]

September 17, 1918
DiedNovember 17, 2012 (aged 94)[1]
Tel Aviv, Israel
ResidenceTel Aviv, Israel
Other namesLady Leah[2]
OccupationFashion designer, businesswoman
Known forFounder and chief designer of Gottex
Spouse(s)Armin Gottlieb
ChildrenJudith Gottlieb and Miriam Ruzow


Lea Lenke Roth (later Gottlieb) was born in Sajószentpéter, Hungary. Before World War II began, she was planning to study chemistry.[2] During Germany's occupation of Hungary in the mid-1940s, her husband Armin was shipped to a labor camp.[2] Gottlieb—who was Jewish—hid from the Nazis in Sajószentpéter and Budapest, moving from one hiding place to another with her daughters Miriam and Judith.[2] At checkpoints, she hid her head in a bouquet of flowers to avoid being recognized as a Jew.[6][7][8] Once, after seeing a Nazi with a pistol, she concealed herself and her children in a pit behind a house.[7][9]

Gottlieb died at her home in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2012 at the age of 94.[1]

Fashion careerEdit

Gottex swimsuits, 1961
Lea Gottlieb with models

Gottlieb and her family survived the war, and after the liberation, she and her husband ran a raincoat factory in Czechoslovakia.[6] They immigrated to Haifa, Israel in 1949.[7] She recalled: "We came with nothing, without money, with nowhere to live. The first two or three years were very, very hard."[7][8]

With money borrowed from family and friends, she and her husband opened a similar raincoat factory near Tel Aviv in 1949.[5][8] But for months, they "saw no rain, only sunshine."[5][7]

As a result, in 1956 they founded Gottex, a high-fashion beachwear and swimwear company that became a leading exporter, shipping to 80 countries.[3][6][7][8] The company's name is a combination of "Gottlieb" and "textiles".[10]

Gottlieb, a seamstress, began by selling her wedding ring to raise money to buy fabric.[9][11] She borrowed a sewing machine, and sewed swimsuits in their Jaffa apartment.[9][11]

She was the company's chief designer.[7][12][13] As the company expanded, Gottlieb created beach outfits by complementing swimsuits with matching tops, pareos, caftans, tunics, loose pants, small corsets and skirts.[14] Her collections often had dramatic and varied patterns that were inspired by and dominated by flowers, which she felt had saved her life during the Nazi occupation.[6][13][14][15][16][17][18]

In 1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out, Gottlieb canceled a foreign tour, took over operations at Gottex, and arranged fashion shows for front-line soldiers.[3] By 1984, Gottex had sales of $40 million ($96 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.[2] 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.[2] In 1991, almost half of the company's $60 million business was in the United States.[19]

Lev Leviev, the owner of the Africa-Israel Group, acquired Gottex in 1997.[11] After about a year heading the design team, Gottlieb left the company.[5][9][12] Once her non-compete agreement with Gottex expired, at the age of 85 she founded a new swimwear design company, under her own name.[5][12][20][21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Martin, Douglas (November 19, 2012). "Leah Gottlieb, a Designer of Swimsuits, Dies at 94". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rudolph, Barbara (June 3, 1985). "Israel's Place in the Sun". TIME. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Tel Aviv Fashion Houses Busy; Beach Design Continued While War Alerts Were On". The Calgary Herald. November 30, 1973. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  4. ^ Helen Hennessey (April 23, 1971). "Sexy Coverups Heat the Beach". The Tuscaloosa New. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e Greer Fay Cashman (April 15, 2005). "Grapevine". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e "'My Homeland: Holocaust Survivors in Israel': new exhibition opens at Yad Vashem". European Jewish Press. April 28, 2008. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Kershner, Isabel (May 6, 2008). "Honoring Survival, and Gifts to a Nation". The New York Times. Israel. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Ackerman, Gwen (May 5, 2008). "Holocaust Survivors, Feted at Museum, Recount Struggle, Triumph". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d Orit Arfa (February 20, 2007). "Designing woman". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  10. ^ Andrea Heiman (April 23, 1993). "Good Gottex! Women Seeking Bold, Slimming Swimwear Make Israeli Company No. 1 in America". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Mari Davis; Tom Massey; Boyd Davis (September 9, 2006). "Gottex, Fashion Designer". Fashion Windows. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c Greer Fay Cashman (May 17, 2006). "Making a splash". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "A blues (and whites) festival in Memphis". May 4, 2003. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  14. ^ a b Mainemer, Ilit (July 18, 2007). "From Tantura to St. Tropez". Haaretz. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  15. ^ Greer Fay Cashman (March 26, 1998). "Gottex – beachwear fit for a ballroom". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  16. ^ Greer Fay Cashman (February 19, 1992). "1492 and all that". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  17. ^ Greer Fay Cashman (January 6, 1994). "Beachwear Firm Swims With The Political Tide". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  18. ^ "Israel is on Parade". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 3, 1977. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  19. ^ Bernadine Morris (June 29, 1991). "When Finding Swimsuit Flatter is Step No. 1". The Dispatch. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  20. ^ Hanan Sher (May 16, 2005). "Still in Fashion at 85". The Jerusalem Report. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  21. ^ "Ticker". The Jerusalem Report. May 2, 2005. Retrieved July 28, 2011.