Gaux Girl - Reshma Chamberlin2019-08-17
It’s one thing to disrupt an industry; it’s another to disrupt multiple facets of said industry. It’s the latter - and the ‘Well, why not?’ attitude it requires - that has us so in thrall with Summersalt co-founder Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin.
First, the quick story. Reshma went beyond the expected benefits provided by a direct-to-consumer business model, like a lower price tag and transparency for the consumer, when developing Summersalt. She and co-founder Lori Coulter also studied the shape needs and wants of 10,000 women (accruing 1.5 million body measurements in the process) so that everything being crafted wasn’t made for a supermodel silhouette, but the real women who’d be buying and wearing the product.
The diversity thread running throughout the brand’s DNA is a brightly lit torch she’s continuing to carry too: The recent “Every Body is a Beach Body” campaign ensured that the company’s website and social media feeds are populated with images that portray all shapes, ages, and skin colors.
Swim-aside, Reshma’s career is one worth taking notice of. Born in Mumbai and educated in India before attending a small liberal arts college in Illinois, she made a quick early career pivot from the magazine world to user-experience design and reaped the benefits. We caught up with this busy girl on the gaux to chat work, branding, and, of course, swimsuits.
You’ve said that founding Summersalt was partly about creating a product for women like you. How does a personal passion or need affect a company’s trajectory and mission? (Versus simply filling a market need).
In our case, I think it's both! My co-founder, Lori, and I were tired of the over-sexualized, male-dominated swimwear industry. We wanted to create swimwear that was sustainable, beautiful, affordable, and that made us feel sexy on our own terms. We also wanted to help women reclaim the joy they felt as children in swimwear and help alleviate the anxiety that comes with swimwear shopping. We are so proud to have created a company that champions diversity and helps women feel JOY!
Swimwear shopping and wearing can be an agonizing experience for women. How did you work to alleviate that?
Each of our pieces is designed using data from 10,000 women's body scans—1.5 million measurements. That means our swimwear is designed to fit women just as they are, and not the other way around. We also have a great Style Quiz and collections to help women find their perfect fit, including long torso styles, suits with amazing boob support, and even a butt coverage guide. Summer is meant to be full of joy and we want the shopping process to be what gets that joy going!
You’re also part of a female co-founder pair. Can you share some thoughts on how unique that relationship can be?
I think being a team of women helps us create a shopping experience that really works for the female customer. We understand the common pain points, the insecurities, and the confidence that comes with that perfect fit. Lori and I have very complementary strengths and are so in-sync with one another that it really has helped us scale quickly without compromising our shared vision. I also have complete trust and confidence in Lori's abilities, her work ethic and her ambition to build something incredible. Trust is the key to building a strong cofounder relationship, as well as being able to laugh together and weather the ups and downs that are just the norm when it comes to startup life.
You’re based in St. Louis, not New York City. Has that distance from the “fashion capital” affected your outlook or ability to think and grow outside the box?
Not at all! When we founded Summersalt, we wanted to create swimwear for women like us. That means we want all women to feel amazing at the pool or on the beach, whether they're a working mom in the midwest or a super-chic city girl in New York. Every body is a beach body, and as an online d-to-c company, we have the ability to reach our customer regardless of where she lives. We also do not believe you have to compromise style for function and Summersalt has been able to set some incredible swimwear and color trends from the Midwest.
Your work at We are January prior to launching Summersalt involved looking holistically at what a brand is. What are your top three musts for creating a 360 brand?
A 360 brand always:
- Has a clear purpose
- Provides a true consumer benefit
- Has a signature look and feel that you can recognize even without a logo
Most recently, you’ve extended from swim into pajamas, activewear, and intimates. How did you decide now was the time?
Our customers are women who are going places, and we want to fill her suitcase wherever she goes. Now that our customer is loving and adventuring in their Summersalt swimwear, we can also provide her with comfortable and chic essentials for every step of her travels.
What does being a girl on the gaux mean to you?
Being a girl on the gaux means that your wheels are always turning and you're always challenging yourself to go further. Whether you're trying out a new gym class, planning a trip to a bucket list destination, or working to make self-care a habit, a girl on the gaux is always moving forward.
Photos by Kirsten Francis for Margaux