Réard's company folded in 1988,[108] four years after his death.[109] By the end of the century, the bikini had become the most popular beachwear around the globe. According to French fashion historian Olivier Saillard, this was due to "the power of women, and not the power of fashion". As he explains, "The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women",[9] though one survey indicates 85% of all bikinis never touch the water.[110][unreliable source?] By 1988 the bikini made up nearly 20% of swimsuit sales, more than any other model in the US,[85] though one-piece suits made a comeback during the 1980s and early 1990s.[109]
In post-World War II Europe, Western Europeans enjoyed their first war-free summer in many years. French designers sought to deliver fashions that matched the liberated mood of the people.[47] Fabric was still in short supply,[49] and in an endeavor to resurrect swimwear sales, two French designers – Jacques Heim and Louis Réard  – almost simultaneously launched new two-piece swimsuit designs in 1946.[50][51] Heim launched a two-piece swimsuit design in Paris that he called the atome, after the smallest known particle of matter. He announced that it was the "world's smallest bathing suit."[52][47] Although briefer than the two-piece swimsuits of the 1930s, the bottom of Heim's new two-piece beach costume still covered the wearer's navel.[49][53][54][55]
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