For most consumers in the U.S., it is not the time of year to think about swimsuits. The weather has turned cold, except for a few perennially sunny pockets – and that means shoppers are much more likely to be considering wool sweaters, hats and socks than hunting down the best possible piece of swimwear.
But for the Summersalt team headquartered in St. Louis, every season is swimsuit season, because that is the direct-to consumer eCommerce startup's specialty. Specifically, the one-year-old startup offers eco-friendly swimwear targeted to shoppers who are, in the words of one reviewer, “non-Coachella-going grown-ups who want to actually swim in their suits rather than wear them once just to take photos for the ‘gram.”
Summersalt is far from alone in the D2C swimwear line. Andie, Bikyni and Onia all offer a direct-to-consumer option that aims to take the pain out of swimsuit shopping with an easier, more accessible digital experience. Each one also offers its own unique twist: Andie is all female-designed and American-made, Bikyni focuses on two-piece swimsuits and Onia makes swimwear that doubles as daytime casualwear for men.
What brought Summersalt Co-founders Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin into the business was an idea that they could offer women something different than the typical “oversexualized approach" to swimwear.
“We wanted a brand to appeal to women like us, so we could feel sexy on our own terms. We wanted to appeal to women across the country, whether that’s a mom in Missouri or a stylish girl in Brooklyn,” Coulter said in an interview.
To build that appeal, Summersalt decided to focus extremely closely on fit, gathering all the data they could amass around getting the right one for their customers, across all body types. The firm leverages approximately 10,000 scans of real women’s bodies and around 1.5 million measurements, which it uses to design all of its swimwear. The company also has a patent on recommending garments based on body type and consumer preference.
The goal, according to the founders, is to offer a brand that is as inclusive as possible. Today, that inclusiveness is limited by its size range, as it only offers garments up to size 14. But that is an issue the brand has resolved to fix now that it has announced the closing of a $6 million Series A funding round led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. With the new funds, Summersalt plans to expand its offerings up to size 22.
“A core value of the brand really is inclusivity, and we know from an economic perspective that by moving up to size 22, we really can acquire a broader set of consumers,” Coulter noted.
But how they are made is only one distinguishing feature of Summersalt suits. The second major difference is in the materials used to make them. All bikini tops and bottoms, as well as one-pieces, are made from recycled textiles and packaged in reusable bags.
"Our fabrics are five times stronger than the average of what is constructed from recycled textiles," Chamberlin said. "Our materials are sourced from cutting-edge mills around the world that have the same philosophy. We are not perfect by any means when it comes to sustainability, but we strive to improve our practices every day."
Improve – and, with the latest infusion of funds, also expand. Apart from expanding their size range, Coulter and Chamberlin have also noted they plan to expand Summersalt past its swimwear starting point and into a line of travelwear. The company's typical consumer, Coulter noted, is a younger, millennial shopper, and travelwear is a natural expansion for a brand that is attempting to tap into a travel- and experience-oriented demographic when it comes to allocating their spend.
“It’s a unique time in retail; women prefer experiences over things,” Coulter said. “We really see this as the next frontier in retail. We want to position Summersalt as the next-generation brand focused around travel.”