Meet the St. Louis, Missouri, Women Behind Our Favorite Swimsuit Brand
Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin think that it's time you felt comfortable and carefree in a bathing suit again. "We wanted to make swimwear for women like us," says Lori, who launched Summersalt with Reshma in 2017. Since then, their swimsuit-and-apparel brand has become known for its embrace of bright colors and its inclusive approach. "We hoped to inspire the joy, adventure, and fun we felt as children at the beach," says Lori. "We wanted the brand to make you feel like you're standing in the sun," Reshma adds.
This emphasis on light and positivity is something that saturates every element of the company, and it's not just a sunny marketing trope. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lori and Reshma were focused on more than the bottom line; they were also thinking about how their employees and consumers were feeling. So they launched The Joycast, a text-based platform that shared good-news stories with folks who wanted them. "We had people reach out to us and say their weddings were canceled or that they couldn't see their parents," says Reshma. "But they were able to text our help line, and our Customer Happiness team would send them a story about penguins walking through the zoo or Italians serenading each other from their balconies." Here, the enterprising founders share lessons learned, the best parts of life in St. Louis, and where they'll go first when it's time to travel again.
Why We Started Summersalt
Lori: "If you look at the market, there's a ton of swimwear on one end that has historically been oversexualized in a way that we don't consider to be modern or aspirational for today's consumer. On the other end, you have the swimwear for our mothers' generation. We saw a big empty space that allowed us to launch and spread the message of joy and engaging with life."
Reshma: "We wanted to create a conversation that was open and friendly. We personify Summersalt as the best friend you are willing to take in the dressing room with you, the one you can ask, 'How do I look in this?' "
The Sidestroke, $95; summersalt.com
The Best Advice That We've Ever Received
Lori: "In life, but especially when it comes to business, understand that the lows aren't typically as low as you think they are—and the highs aren't as high either. It is important to stay steady and constant throughout it all, and it tends to work out for us that way."
Reshma: "Recognizing the value of grit and hard work was something that was really instilled in me at a young age. The advice to not give up and to keep on keeping on, together with a steady approach like Lori talked about, is a winning combination."
How We Approach Getting Dressed
Reshma: "Feeling adventurous and joyful comes down to feeling comfortable. That's the basis of every product we design, and it's the foundation for me as someone who's always on the go: How can comfort be part of my everyday experience without sacrificing style?"
Lori: "I think I'm slightly classic with a modern twist in everything I do, so there's always a hint of fun or a surprise, a hidden detail. Certainly comfort is a factor in what I wear. I also like multifunctional items that can go from the office to home to parent-teacher conferences seamlessly."
Why We Think Being a Women-led Brand is an Advantage
Lori: "We're very aware that only 2% to 3% of venture capital goes to women; that's a stark statistic. But a two-female team is phenomenal when you serve a female consumer base. From that perspective, we have a deep understanding of our customers personally and professionally."
Reshma: "Lori and I have been in the trenches together, and having a cofounder you can admire, look up to, and learn from is incredible. I am so lucky to have someone like that to talk to every day. It's definitely something I am really grateful for."
What Makes St. Louis a Special Place to Call Home
Reshma: "It took me a long time to settle in here, but now after 12 years, I couldn't imagine living elsewhere. My favorite thing about St. Louis is that we get to build Summersalt here, but I also love the restaurant scene. We have wonderful food! My husband and I live by Forest Park, which is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., and that's another amazing thing about being here. We love to pack picnics and go walk in the park and Rollerblade."
Lori: "What's so impressive is the creative scene here. From the Saint Louis Art Museum to the symphony to The Fabulous Fox theater to The Muny with its Broadway-quality productions to the Kemper Art Museum, the world-class level of arts is remarkable and rarely found outside New York City, at least in the U.S."
Where We Hope to Travel Next
Lori: "I'm long overdue for a trip to Asia, as far as sourcing for work goes. Usually, I would go two or three times a year. My husband and I did a great spur-of-the-moment vacation in August 2019 to Machu Picchu in Peru, so I think Patagonia [in Chile and Argentina] will be our next adventure."
Reshma: "I haven't seen my family in nearly two years because I was planning to go home to India in early 2020 and it just didn't happen. So I'm desperate to go there. My heart is in India—the food, my mom, my childhood bed. I'm absolutely ready."