Biographical note: Gloria Smythe
Gloria Smythe (Mrs Mortimer-Dunn), ASTC, Designer/Product Manager of Women's Wear for Speedo, Australia graduated from East Sydney Technical College with an Honours Art Diploma in Design and Crafts. She taught part-time in the Art Department, Design School, East Sydney Technical College, 1947-52, 1957-78.
From 1952-57 she was pattern maker and assistant to the Head Designer at Horrockses Fashions Ltd, London whose collections consisted of sports, casual, daywear and evening wear as well as haute couture for clients including the H.M. Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyne and Vivien Leigh.
On returning to Australia she joined Cole of California, 1957-58 (swim and sportswear) and Oriental Art Manufacturing Pty Ltd, 1958-61 as designer and pattern maker.
From 1962-90 Ms Smythe was employed at the Speedo Knitting Mills Pty Ltd (later Speedo Group Limited), originally as a menswear designer of swim, sports and casual wear. In 1964 she was appointed designer of the "White Stag" women's division of Speedo. She made annual overseas trips 1964-86 for trade fairs and conferences. During her career at Speedo she developed the company's range of coordinated fashion swimwear, cover-ups, leotards, tights, and the Great Aussie Cossie racing range. She designed all the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, Pacific and World Championship Speedo swimsuits for Australian and overseas teams, 1963-88.
Gloria Smythe is the author of the design textbooks Fashion Making, Fashion Design, Pattern Design and ABC's of Fashion and Design.
The Speedo Archive was assembled and held by Ms Smythe who donated it to the Museum upon her retirement from Speedo.
Autobiographical material of Gloria Smythe, 1949-90 at 92/1728-2
Newscuttings, 1946-90 at 92/1728-1
Administrative history: Speedo
Alexander MacRae ( -1938) migrated to Australia from Scotland in 1912. In 1914 he established the MacRae Knitting Mills in Regent Street, Sydney and began manufacturing men's and women's woollen and cotton underwear and woollen knitwear under the trade name "Fortitude" (taken from the motto of the MacRae family). In 1918 the business became a limited company (MacRae Knitting Mills Ltd) and moved to larger premises in Parramatta Road, Camperdown. In 1922 the company moved to a three floor factory in Federation Street, Newtown which it occupied until 1956.
The Company first used the brand name Speedo in 1929 for its first swimwear product, the "Racer-back". (The name Speedo was coined in 1928 by former sea-captain Parsonson who won five pounds in a staff competition to name the costumes. His winning slogan was "Speed on in your Speedo") MacRae Knitting Mills changed its name to Speedo in 1929.
In 1937 a proprietary company, Speedo Knitting Mills Pty Ltd, was formed. In the same year Speedo was granted a licence from Coopers Inc of Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA to produce and market "Jockey" underwear for men and boys which replaced their own "Fortitude" brand. Speedo later had a similar licence arrangement with White Stag skiwear from White Stag Mfg Co., Portland.
Following the death of MacRae in 1938, his two eldest sons, Alasdair and Bill became Joint Managing Directors.
The success of Speedo products necessitated the establishment of another factory at Windsor in 1947.
In 1951 Speedo Knitting Mills (Holdings) Ltd was incorporated and became a public company listed on the Sydney Stock Exchange. The name was changed to Speedo Holdings Ltd in 1959.
An additional factory was established at Newcastle in 1952, controlled by a separate subsidiary company, Speedo Knitting Mills (Newcastle) Pty Ltd. In 1957 a new factory at Artarmon was opened (replacing the Newtown site). By this time Speedo was employing 700 people. Taree opened in 1971 and was employing 106 workers by 1973.
Over the years Speedo products have included knitted and woven swimwear (both racing and fashion), underwear, knitwear, and leisure clothing such as sports shirts, walk shorts, bowls jackets, leotards, and beachwear.
Speedo, however, is best known as the world's leading manufacturer of racing swimwear. The company has been the supplier of Australia's Olympic swimsuits since the London games in 1948. Other nations' swimming teams also wore Speedos at the Olympics, for example, in 1972 52 out of 54 countries elected to
wear Speedo swimsuits at the Munich Olympics. The suits were initially silk, then cotton, then from 1957 nylon and from 1972 lycra.
Speedo was a successful exporter and won Export Awards from the Department of Trade and Industry in 1964 and 1969
Demand for the product led to Speedo licensing overseas companies to produce Speedo swimwear to Speedo specifications - New Zealand ,1963; UK 1964, Japan, 1966; South Africa, 1967; Israel, 1976; Yugoslavia, 1977; Brazil, 1978; Mexico, 1979; and, between 1979-81, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland; and USA and Canada, 1983. An International Division was formed to co-ordinate this.
In 1971 the group of companies trading as Country Club Holdings Ltd, shirt manufacturers, were acquired by Speedo and Speedo entered the manufacture of a full range of men's business and sports shirts.
In the same year Speedo acquired 30% of the capital of Robert Shaw and Co Ltd, Nottingham, who had been manufacturing Speedo swimwear under licence. This was increased to 51% in 1972 and in 1974 Speedo acquired the balance of the ordinary capital of the company.
In 1980 Speedo acquired the Gloria group of companies and also 44.9% of the equity in Formfit of Australia Ltd, the remaining balance of shares being acquired the following year.
The period 1983-86 saw the consolidation of all the company activities both in Australia and overseas.
In 1986 AFP Corporation took over Speedo Australia and Speedo International and merged them into the Linter Group of Companies. Speedo (Europe) Ltd, Nottingham was sold to Crowther Ltd. In 1988 Abraham Goldberg, through Parkinson Holdings, acquired all of the Linter Group from AFP and merged it with his own textile group, Entrad, and privatised the whole of the textile and apparel companies under the umbrella group, Linter Textile Corporation.
The Speedo Story, 1957 at 92/1728-4
"Speedo Company History". Photocopied typescript document at 92/1728-20
Newscuttings, 1946-90 at 92/1728-1