Gottex was founded in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1956 by Lea Gottlieb, who headed the design team until 1998. She adapted her expertise as a raincoat manufacturer to create a pioneering swimsuit company.
She sold her wedding ring for capital, bought fabric, borrowed a sewing machine and began to design swimsuits that were unique to Israel, inspired by the local Middle-Eastern light and colors: "the aqua of the Mediterranean, the golden yellow of the desert, the blue of Lake Tiberias, the pink of Jerusalem stone and the greens of the Galilee."
During the German occupation of Hungary, Gottlieb was forced to move with her husband and daughters from one hiding place to another. To avoid being recognized as a Jew when passing through checkpoints, she used to tuck her head in a bouquet of flowers. She said that the flower motifs in her designs were a tribute to the flowers that saved her life.
In Gottlieb's vision, Gottex collections can be worn "from pool to the bar," and then to a restaurant or cocktail parties. In addition to swimsuits, Gottex produces caftans, tunics and trousers, combining swimwear and beachwear. Gottex is a pioneer of swimsuits with hard-cup bras. Gottex is known for using innovative fabrics. It was the first manufacturer to introduce Spandex.
In 1975, she was contacted by the fashion houses of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Cardin, which sought to manufacture her swimsuits under their names. Instead, she expanded into men’s and children’s swimwear, bed linens, towels and drapes.