Gold Coast’s iconic fashion designer Paula Stafford, who introduced the bikini to Australia, has died at the age of 102.
- Born in 1920, Stafford studied mathematics, chemistry and physics at the Melbourne Girls Grammar.
- He introduced the bikini to Australia when the design was still controversial
- Stafford bikini became synonymous with the Gold Coast in the 1950s and 1960s at a time when it was considered a seaside town.
Stafford’s fashion empire included swimwear, casual and evening wear, and menswear, and by 1964 was the second largest Gold Coast industry after sand mining.
But when she cut her first one-piece swimsuit in half, Stafford said she had not even heard the name “bikini”.
“I named my duo,” she told ABC in a 2014 interview.
While the bikini was invented in 1946 by the Frenchman Louis Réard, Stafford popularized the then controversial swimsuit design and put the Gold Coast on the map in the process.
You do not have to pay for publicity
While making her first two pieces for personal use, Stafford said that “people kept wanting what I was wearing.”
“So I decided it might be a good idea to have an extra income,” he said.
The bikini became famous in 1952 when a woman wearing a Stafford design was ordered to leave a beach because it was indecent.
Stafford responded by sending five women in bikinis to the beach at a famous PR bay.
“It was incredible.”
More than one brand
Stafford said swimwear had become an “industry” for her, with her business exporting bikinis to London and New York employing at least 50 women and her family.
“It grew so fast that we had to build a special factory where we would place the machines,” said Stafford.
While it started with just four machines, it ended with more than 40.
Stafford bikini became synonymous with the Gold Coast at a time when the city was considered more of a seaside town.
“It was a lot of work and time, but I was happy to do it,” he said.
Lydia Pearson from the famous Queensland fashion company Easton Pearson told ABC in 2020 that Stafford was a pioneer in the Australian industry.
“You can not regret”
Stafford was born in 1920 and studied mathematics, chemistry and physics at the Melbourne Girls Grammar.
While wanting to become an architect, Stafford said the director advised her to pursue a “more feminine” career.
“So the design of the dresses came into the picture,” he said.
Stafford said it left the company in the 1990s before eventually shrinking.
“It’s not good to look back and say, ‘I should have done this, I should have done that.’ I did what I did and that was it.
“You can not have regrets, it is not.”