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Interview with the founders of Summersalt's swimwear
Book a flight somewhere warm: eco-friendly, size-inclusive swimwear brand Summersalt is now at Nordstrom. We speak with the founders about their famous fit and the 10,000 women whose body measurements it's based on.
By Tessa Trudeau
Swimsuits are a difficult garment to design. Much like lingerie, there are so many components in the construction, from material to sizing, that make achieving the perfect fit easier said than done. But Summersalt has it down to a science—literally. "Ten years ago, I launched a business doing digital body scanning and made-to-order apparel," says cofounder Lori Coulter, and it's this very fit technology that informs the structure of each Summersalt suit today. "We scanned over 10,000 women and made a swimsuit for each of them."
"Our designs come from those 10,000 women's body scans and 1.5 million measurements," adds cofounder Reshma Chamberlin, "so we're really creating products for women like all of us. Our fit is what we're known for, and it's based on real women's data, as opposed to a kind of fictitious version of what women should be."
Coulter and Chamberlin started Summersalt in May 2017 after meeting years earlier through the entrepreneurship community in St. Louis, Missouri, where the brand is still based. In 2016, the two grabbed lunch to catch up and talk retail, but it wasn't until six months later that a plan was put in motion after they serendipitously ran into each other at a bar in New York City. From there, they set out on a mission to disrupt an industry that, in many ways, has remained unchanged for so long. Until now, with its exclusive retail launch at Nordstrom, the brand has operated on a direct-to-consumer model which has cut out the middleman and allowed for a price point of $95. "Working at the intersection of technology and fashion," as Coulter puts it, "our goal was to offer designer-quality product that speaks to modern women in an industry predominantly controlled by legacy brands that were starting to look tired and oversexualized," she says. "We wanted to invoke a sense of joy that all of us felt in a swimsuit as children at the beach."
That mission has resonated with the very women they're designing for, thanks to a fit that, above all else, is dependable. You can buy the same size, ranging from two to 24, in every style they carry and count on it fitting perfectly, but that's not always the case with other swim names. With a design library of now more than 10,000 styles, the brand uses pieces of different suits as building blocks to create new silhouettes without altering the sizing. "We're really only changing design lines—not fit—and that's really important," says Chamberlin. "Customers can expect that if they buy an Oasis suit and then a Marina, they can buy the same size." Plus, Summersalt's fabrics are made of high-quality, sustainable materials derived from recycled plastics and nylon waste, so fit and sizing isn't the only thing customers can feel good about.
Now leaders in the swimwear biz, Coulter and Chamberlin have created a brand that not only fits exceptionally well but delivers on style too. Summersalt is especially known for color blocking and unique color combinations, taking into consideration upcoming trends straight off the runways. "We should really be watching out for interesting plays on color," says Chamberlin. "Traditionally when you see swim there's black, there's a lot of blues. For us, it's truly about using unexpected color combinations in a fresh and new way. For example, we saw red and pink in the spring shows, we saw it on the Emmys red carpet. We expect that unique color combinations will continue to be at the forefront of the trend spectrum, as well as interesting prints in the long run." Summersalt is a celebrity favorite too: "Celebs who have been spotted in our brand include Gigi Hadid and Priyanka Chopra," Chamberlin tells us.
"This is swimwear for women by women," she says. "It's crafted, created and run by an incredible group of women. We're not just doing this because we saw an opportunity; we really put heart and soul into how we think about products, our colorways—and we're really excited to bring it to Nordstrom."