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Catalina is one of the oldest clothing manufacturers in California. Their history began in 1907, as Bentz Knitting Mills, a small manufacturer of underwear and sweaters. The name was changed to Pacific Knitting Mills in 1912, accompanied by the introduction of swimwear to their existing knit lines. The third and final name change came in 1928, to Catalina.
The earliest wool knit suits were patterned after a simple one-piece style introduced to the US by Australian swim star Annette Kellerman. In the 1920s, Catalina produced increasingly baring and fashionable swimwear, including the boldly striped Chicken Suit, men's Speed Suit and Ribstitch "S" suits. With the rising glitz of the silver screen in the 1930s, Catalina adopted the slogan "Styled for the Stars of Hollywood". They added to the prestige by using Hollywood starlets, including Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, and Olivia de Havilland in their marketing campaigns. At the time, the average Catalina swimsuit retailed between five and ten dollars, equivalent to $89–$178 today (assuming 1935 dollars).
Catalina's influence was intertwined with the myth and icon of the Miss America Beauty Pageant. When they sponsored the contest in the 1940s, contestants wore essentially off-the-rack Catalina swimsuits, except the pageant suits had the flying fish logo on both hips instead of just one. They dropped sponsorship after the 1951 winner, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit. Catalina then went on to found the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe pageants, co-sponsoring them for decades to follow. With this came a new slogan to emphasize their growing global awareness: "Around the world... it's Catalina".
In the 1960s, Catalina became a sister company to Cole of California, a swimwear manufacturer established in 1925. The duo later joined Authentic Fitness Corporation, a subsidiary of Warnaco Inc, in 1993. The merger created a company of swim, active and fitness brands. The following year, with the rising importance of mass market retailers, the decision was made to offer Catalina to Wal-Mart stores across America.
Catalina had a presence in South America, through license agreements, especially Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, sponsoring the beauty pageants in these countries, with several contestants winning the Miss Universe event. Today the brand is manufactured in Brazil, and distributed in the Mercosur countries by Grupo Aguia.
Catalina is predominantly women's swimwear, including a rib suit known as the "Everybody Tank", as well as Separates, Athletic, and Maternity lines. In 2007, Catalina landed seventh on a list of top swimwear brands ranked by consumer awareness, as published in Women's Wear Daily's 4th Annual Book of Lists.
In December 2007 The Warnaco Group announced it had sold the Catalina business to In Mocean Group.
As of 2014, Catalina swimwear is only available for purchase through Wal-Mart.