During this busy holiday season, MAKERS wants shoppers to empower women with their wallets. To make it easy to do so, we’re highlighting some of our favorite female founders and the amazing products they sell. Check it all out at shopping.yahoo.com. (We may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability is subject to change.)
If you’re a woman who has an Instagram account, chances are you’re familiar with the brand Summersalt thanks to its popular swimsuits. There’s the Sidestroke, one-shoulder one-piece with diagonal compression seaming; the Deep Dive, which has built in cups and a cross-body back for full support even with a plunging neckline; the Swan Dive that, as the product description reads, is “elegant yet bold, and sure to turn a few heads” and built like a bralette; and so many more whimsical, colorful and trendy styles.
Getting the products on people like influencer Arielle Charnas, actress Priyanka Chopra and model Gigi Hadid helped spread the word about the company on social media, yet it’s the testimonials from customers that have helped the brand expand rapidly. Talking with co-founders Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, it’s obvious why Summersalt has resonated so profoundly with the modern woman — which just so happened to be one of their goals when launching the retailer in 2017.
The pair recognized that the fashion industry, most especially those companies specializing in swimwear, rarely understand the realities and full-picture of what a woman’s life is like. “There’s nothing sadder than just being reluctant to play in the ocean with your kids, or to go paddle boarding or to take that bucket list trip to Bali,” Coulter tells MAKERS. That’s why they are so passionate about getting fit just right, which they achieved by taking 10,000 body scans and 1.5 million measurements of real women across America.
But fit isn’t the whole picture. “We feel like there’s always been a ton of over-sexualized swimwear on one end, and then on the other end you have sort of very grandmotherly approaches to swimwear,” Coulter says. “There’s nothing really for women interested in being sexy on our own terms and allowing ourselves to dive right into whatever adventure we’re pursuing. And that really was the basis for the brand from the very beginning.”
MAKERS spoke with the Chamberlin and Coulter about how they became business partners, the advantage of being based in Missouri and fashion world domination.
You launched the brand in May 2017. Why was the inclusive approach to designing swimwear in particular unique at that time?
LC: Swimwear has such a negative kind of association, swimwear buying in particular, for a lot of women. And so, we try to infuse a bit of joy into her experience and then encourage her to dive in. There’s nothing sadder than just being reluctant to play in the ocean with your kids, or to go paddle boarding or to take that bucket list trip to Bali. And so our goal and mission really is to inspire that adventure at all levels. That being said, as far as the kind of gap in the marketplace, we feel like there’s always been a ton of over sexualized swimwear on one end, and then on the other end you have sort of very grandmotherly approaches to swimwear. There’s nothing really for women interested in being sexy on our own terms and allowing ourselves to dive right into whatever adventure we’re pursuing. And that really was the basis for the brand from the very beginning.
In what ways have you been able to communicate those values to your customers?
RCC: I think it’s really important to be authentic to who we are, and I think you hear that passion, you hear how we feel about it because it’s really intricate to who we are as a brand. It is not a marketing ploy, this is really just who we are. So when we think about social media and that strategy, we want to make sure that all of the women in our network feel represented and heard, and that’s really how we thought about this entire strategy. It’s about meeting that consumer where she is. She’s discovering products on Instagram, she wants to see herself represented, she wants to feel inspired to take an adventure, to dive in to try a new style. So again, we’ve taken an incredibly authentic view of how we communicate and I think that’s worked for us.
How does your team, headquartered in Missouri, also reflect those values?
LC: Summersalt certainly has a foot on either coast, we understand that consumer. She buys from us over and over and over again. But what we have is slightly different, and what I think is a competitive advantage for us, is that we do understand the middle of America, and that’s where true scale comes from for brands. In addition, we find that by being sort of a little bit protected or insular geographically, we are one team pursuing one dream, unapologetically pursuing our mission and our way of presenting the brand. And so it’s truly authentic to who we are as people, authentic to the brand and really have original thought around how we’re communicating with the consumer.
RCC: We are an incredibly, incredibly diverse team.
LC: Seventy percent women, 40 percent non-white and then you know, everybody comes from multiple backgrounds. We value diversity of thought above anything else, and you know, the interesting thing is that it’s just authentic to who we are. We’re not hiring with any specific goals in mind, it’s just we’re attracting the best talent and giving those people a chance.
You’re dominating the swimwear category and now have travelwear, activewear and sleepwear. What’s next?
LC: All along our goal was to really own her entire suitcase, to be along with all of her adventures and travels. Either while she’s getting there, being there or coming home. And that really gives us permission to continue to expand our garment category beyond swimwear. But again, always coming back to those Summersalt principles around designer quality for the price point, functionality at the core. And then certainly elevated from a style perspective, as well as a path to sustainability in all cases.
RCC: For us it’s about continuing to innovate and iterate. It’s not a zero-sum game, it’s about putting product out there that our consumer loves, hearing her feedback, tweaking where is necessary. Also getting her new things that make her life that much more enjoyable.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.