Speedo is the world's leading manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear and accessories, headquartered in Nottingham, England, and owned by the London-based Pentland Group. Its products include swimsuits, goggles, footwear, pool training gear, swim caps, and waterproof electronics.
Speedo International Ltd. is a manufacturer and distributor of swimwear and swim-related accessories. Founded in Australia in 1914, the industry leading company is now a subsidiary of Pentland Group Plc. Today, the Speedo brand can be found on products ranging from swimsuits and goggles to wrist watches and waterproof digital audio player for open water swimmers. The Speedo brand is manufactured for and marketed in North America as Speedo USA by The Warnaco Group, Inc. under an exclusive perpetual license.
In 1990, British sportswear firm Pentland Group, which had just sold its shares of sneaker company Reebok, acquired a significant stake in Warnaco offshoot Authentic Fitness, which was the exclusive North American licensee of Speedo. Pentland followed this move with the purchase of 80% of Speedo (Europe) Ltd. Early the next year, Pentland completed its aggressive entrance into the global swimwear market by wholly acquiring Speedo Australia and Speedo International. Under Pentland's ownership, Speedo expanded its line of swimwear to include more fashion-oriented beachwear as well as triathlon accessories.
Speedo continued its winning tradition of utilizing cutting edge technology to decrease drag in the water and increase speed into the 1990s. The decade saw the creation of the low-drag S2000 suit, the chlorine resistant Endurance line as well as the Aquablade series which was worn by more than three-fourths of medal winners at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.
Although the brand name Speedo is often refers to any style of men's swim briefs, the iconic swimwear ("Speedos") only account for less than 2% of the company's sales. The Speedo name can be found on a wide range of swimsuit styles for men, women, and children focusing on performance and style. Speedo also offers a range of sportswear, footwear, and accessories ranging from swim goggles to electronics. Additionally, Speedo International offers a line of men's underwear and Speedo Australia features a line of underwear called Speedo Underbody for men and women, sold only in select David Jones retail stores.
Speedo offers a broad range of swim accessories including more than 70 models of goggles, several models of watches, sunglasses, and towels. In addition, Speedo offers several lines of aquatic fitness aids and swim aids for children and adults as well as scuba masks, snorkel, swim caps, and fins. Speedo International offers a line of beach games equipment not offered on the Speedo USA website.
The Speedo brand can be fond on a wide variety of footwear including sandals, flip-flops, and water shoes. Speedo USA offers waterproof sneakers for aqua fitness training.
The Speedo Digital line of accessories includes the waterproof Speedo Aquabeat MP3 Player and LZR Racer Aquabeat digital music players and related accessories. Speedo's electronics offerings also include the Auquashot waterproof digital camera.
Speedo's swimwear lineup is diverse. Speedo USA's online catalog divides its women's swimwear lines into the following categories: Competition, Fashion, Racing, Aquatic Fitness, and Lifeguard. Speedo International offers the additional categories of women's swimsuits: Essentials, Bikinis, and Maternity as well as full-bodied wetsuits. Speedo USA's men's collections are categorized as: Competition, Racing, Boardshorts and Swim Trunks, Fashion, and Lifeguard. Speedo International's men's offerings also include wetsuits. Both Speedo USA and Speedo International also offer a wide range of children's styles including performance, racing, fashion and beginner lines.
Additionally, Speedo International offers a website and line of products called Speedo Sea Squad which features games and activities to help young children learn about swimming and water safety.
Beginning with Arne Borg's record breaking introduction of the racerback suit in 1932, Speedo has utilized the latest technologies available and — more recently — has been an industry leader in fabric technology innovations. Swim records were broken in Speedo brand silk suits in the 1930s, and the company was the first to introduce the use of nylon in the 1950s and later nylon/elastane in the 1970s. Speedo's most recent technological advances are found in the Fastskin, Fastskin FS II series and the LZR Racer suit. Throughout the company's history, though, it seemed each design innovation was met with great controversy. Clare Dennis was nearly disqualified from her record-breaking Olympic meet because her suit showed too much skin; early Speedo bikinis were banned from some Australian beaches; more recently, the NASA technology in the LZR Racer suit Michael Phelps wore at the Beijing Olympics was the subject of great media scrutiny.
Perhaps the company's most controversial move came with 2008's unveiling of the LZR (pronounced "lazer") Racer — a suit, as Speedo's website boasts, "so fast, it was banned from competition". Indeed the LZR Racer was banned by FINA in 2009, but not until swimmers wearing this suit had already broken at least 46 world records. The super smooth suit, which was optimized with the help of NASA wind tunnels, uses welded seams and multiple woven fabrics to reduce drag by up to six percent. In addition, the LZR, like the Fastskin, utilizes a core stabilizer, which acts almost as a girdle, to reduce muscle movement. This is designed to help the swimmer maintain the proper angle in the water for longer periods of time.
Speedo's latest version of the LZR Racer series, the LZR Racer Elite, carries the FINA stamp of approval. The Elite series, like its predecessor utilizes welded seams and compression material to sculpt the swimmer's body. The Speedo USA website specifically denies the new generation of LZR Racers is a "quick fix". The most recent list of FINA approved swimsuits, which was published in January 2011 lists 78 specific Speedo brand swimsuits among 45 worldwide brands and nearly 720 models. Among them, 71 are Fastskin models and 13 are LZR series suits.
FINA's ban on LZR Racers left Speedo with a significant surplus stock. The obsolete competition suits have found new life, though. London's Chelsea College of Art and Design received a donation of 600 suits, 200 of which were turned into the Chelsea Xpo Pavilion as part of the 2010 London Festival of Architecture project.
Another collaboration between Speedo and academia netted a line of designer fashions. Teams of students from the London College of Fashion, University College Falmouth and the University of Huddersfield have reused the material to create a complete fashion line including casual slacks, jackets, and even different forms of swimwear. Speedo International president David Robinson said in a press release "we are pleased to see this quality of talent emerging from the universities that have taken part. Speedo is committed to reducing its impact on the environment and as such it is good to see the Speedo LZR Racer live on in these innovative designs”.
This was not the company's first foray into recycled high fashion, though. In September 2010, award winning sustainable fashion label, From Somewhere announced a new line of dresses made from Speedo's surplus.
Speedo is the sponsor of several national swim teams including Swimming Australia, Brazilian Aquatic Sports Confederation, Swimming Canada, Diving Plongeon Canada, Synchro Canada, Canadian Water Polo Association, Colombian Federation of Swimming, Finnish Swimming Association, Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, Icelandic Swimming Association, Israel Swimming Association, Japan Swimming Federation, Mexican Swimming Federation, Romanian Water Polo Association, Royal Spanish Swimming Federation, British Swimming, USA Swimming and United States Masters Swimming.
Speedo also offers sponsorships to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, junior colleges as well as non-profit recreation leagues such as YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs.
In addition to team and league sponsorships, several celebrity athletes endorse Speedo products including Bronte Barratt, Daniela Samulski, Eamon Sullivan, Ellen Fullerton, Fabien Gilot, Femke Heemskerk, Filippo Magnini, Kate Ziegler, Katie Hoff, Leisel Jones, Liam Tancock, Libby Trickett, Marleen Veldhuis, Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, Peter Vanderkaay, Rebecca Adlington, Ryan Lochte, and Park Tae-Hwan.
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