Bad Rappenau

Capital of swimwear


he traditional spa town with therapeutic baths is the birthplace and long-standing location of two historically very important swimwear manufacturers, Benger Ribbana and Felina. With the establishment of the world's first museum for swimwear and beach

culture - also in Bad Rappenau - the town mutates into the "Capital of Swimwear". Sebastian Frei, the Lord Mayor of Bad Rappenau, used the term for the first time at the topping-out ceremony of the BikiniARTmuseum in 2019.

"Seaside resort far from the sea" - Spa town Bad Rappenau 

Salt deposits in the 19th century - The liquid gold for Rappenau 

After the discovery of the salt deposits in 1822 in a valley to the east of Rappenau, a salt works was built in the immediate vicinity one year later, which existed until 1972 and formed the basis of the spa operation. The Sophien-Bad was opened in 1834 as the first brine bath in Rappenau in the then Grand Duchy of Baden. When, towards the end of the 19th century, the Baden state wanted to withdraw from the Rappenau spa and bathing business, the citizens and their community jointly took over the efforts. With the construction of the Sophie Luisen Bath in 1903, the community entered the spa business and thus saved the spa and bath business at the beginning of the 20th century.

Through a sense of community: Rappenau receives the title "Bad

The Kur- und Verkehrsverein - the present Heimat- und Museumsverein - was founded in 1903. Together the citizens built facilities, walking paths and resting places. At the same time, the association took over social tasks in the care of the spa guests and created a cultural offer. In 1930, thanks to the commitment of the citizens, Rappenau received official recognition as a "spa" and just a few years later, after the opening of the brine and wave pool, the spa was already advertising as a "seaside resort far from the sea". To this day, this facility remains extremely popular with locals and guests alike, as it is regularly expanded and renovated, including the spacious "RappSoDie" sauna landscape, which was inaugurated in 2007.

Benger Ribana - The heart of Bad Rappenau  

The beginnings - From Degerloch to New York

Wilhelm Friedrich Benger bought a weaver's cottage in Degerloch near Stuttgart in 1844 and worked from 1852 to 1856 together with Honore Frédéric Fouquet and Carl Terrot on five circular looms. As a result of its participation in the Paris World Exhibition in 1855 and the growing success of the company, the company moved to Stuttgart in 1864. Together with Professor Gustav Jaeger, the brothers Wilhelm and Gottlieb Benger, who had taken over the company after the death of their father, produced reform underwear made of wool from 1879 onwards. The underwear became a bestseller in the range and the company won numerous awards and prizes for its revolutionary goods. At the end of the 19th century, branches followed near Bregenz, Berlin, Vienna and New York.

Winnetou and Benger Ribana? - German pioneer of industrial swimwear production

In 1911, the company began producing ribbed fabric using a machine with a Cooper's spring-needle system. The brand name "Ribana" was chosen for this new segment. The inspiration for this was the young squaw "Ribanna" from the novel "Winnetou" (1893) by Karl May. The name "Benger Ribana" was born. Already in 1928 Benger Ribana was one of the first German manufacturers to produce swimwear industrially. Inspired by the American market, tight-fitting woollen knitted swimsuits were produced.

War production and the economic miracle - colourful swimwear awakens the desire for life

During both world wars Benger Ribana was also obliged to support war production. The production of army clothing, cargo parachutes and brake chutes became the new daily business in the entire textile industry. Towards the end of the Second World War, production came to a complete standstill. After the currency reform in 1948, the war-damaged production facilities were rebuilt and the machinery was modernised. The Second World War acted as a catalyst for swimwear production. Its end awakened a new lust for life, which was expressed above all in strong colours. Benger Ribana turned swimwear into a fashion item again.

Shock in the spa town - The BikiniARTmuseum reminds of Benger Ribana

In 1963 the company was completely relocated to Bad Rappenau. For many years, high-quality branded articles in the fields of swim and beach fashion, day and nightwear as well as sports and health underwear were produced in the spa town. 20 years after the move, the company was stunned: in 1983 Benger Ribana filed for bankruptcy. The result was that many women lost their jobs. Especially the seamstresses of the huge employer, which had 600 employees in its heyday, were severely affected. The Benger Ribana heyday is now commemorated in the BikiniARTmuseum. Many thanks go to the Bad Rappenau town archive, especially to Mrs. Regina Thies, and to the Bad Rappenau couple Rolf and Anita Schulze-Seeger. Thanks to their support, over 50 swimwear items as well as numerous historical documents, slides and company chronicles by Benger Ribana have been acquired for the museum on loan.

Felina - One of the oldest corsetry factories in Germany 

The beginnings in the capital of swimwear - Bad Rappenau

In 1885, Eugen Herbst began producing corsetry and corsets in Bad Rappenau. 10 women found work here before the company moved to Mannheim in 1889. There the corsetry factory Herbst moved into its first factory building at the turn of the century and was renamed "Felina" in 1917. In the 1930s Felina expanded with corsets and bras and founded manufacturing branches in Milan, Paris, Zurich and London. A few years later Felina was the second largest corset factory in Germany.

Seizure of power by the National Socialists - Aryanisation and deprivation of rights of the founding Herbst family

The National Socialists' seizure of power in 1933 meant massive restrictions for the Herbst family, the Jewish founding family, such as the refusal of export licences and the ban on taking part in trade fairs. Although a trustee was appointed for the company during this period, Eugen Herbst continued to run the business until 1936, before the family fled into exile under political pressure. The manufacturer Richard Greiling finally acquired Felina at well below market value. After the Aryanization the company was called "Korsettfabrik FELINA Mannheim" and produced not only corsetry but also the so-called war important articles. In summer 1944 large parts of the factory were destroyed by an aerial mine. Most of the machinery had already been outsourced at this time.  

Reconstruction and internationalisation - the rebirth of a war-torn company 

After the end of the war, reconstruction began. With the opening of a further branch in Kaiserslautern in 1955 Felina became the second largest corsetry company in Germany and was represented at the Brussels World Fair in 1958. By the end of the 1950s the products were already being sold in over 50 countries. From 1969 Felina began producing swimwear, which has since been characterised by high wearing comfort, figure-shaping fabrics and elegant designs. This introduction was achieved primarily through innovative developments, such as the use of the elastic Lycra fibre as a means of production. This enabled the company to offer its customers a choice of well over 250 models. This expansive and customer-oriented course was continued in the following decades. 

Felina in the present: high quality, innovation and the European Lingerie Group 

In over 130 years Felina has developed from a small corset manufacturer into a global lingerie and swimwear company. Operating throughout Europe, Felina continues to create collections for women from all over the world at its design centre in Mannheim. Since 2017 the company with its high-quality designs and products has been part of the European Lingerie Group. Together we will build on our strengths, develop innovative highlights and continue the Felina success story.

Visitors to the BikiniARTmuseum can look forward to a doutzen swimwear pieces from the early days of Felina's swimwear production.

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