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13.11.2018

Full disclosure: This author knew Reshma Chattaram long before she and her American business partner Lori Coulter developed their swimsuits, the must-have uniform for sexy, active beachgoers all over the United States. She was a fellow art student in high school, and it was here that I first saw her command over colour and form. She could draw and paint with Japanese woodcut-style precision, and override any accusation of OCD with a mellifluous finish.
 
This cocktail of rigour and richness come together to form the much-loved aesthetic of Summersault, an online swimsuit business that has just raised $6m in funding. Reshma attributes this careful mix to the sum of parts. “Lori, my partner, had been in the swimsuit manufacturing business for over ten years, and she collected data on women’s bodies that was based on more than 10,000 scans of real women, and 1.5 million measurements.” To this, Reshma brings her own expertise in branding, graphic design and art, developed over a decade.
 
Two summers ago, they saw a gaping hole in the swimsuit market, between $300 designer swimsuits and $30 off-the-rack stuff. Summersault, in its nascent stage made a few undying commitments: they would develop a suit made from old-fishing nets that would cost no more than a hundred dollars (ever), and would stay in the business of developing swimsuits for all kinds of women – pregnant, young, on a budget, post-mastectomy.
 
Underlying the quest to get the fit bang on was a deeper, somewhat emotional goal: to bring the fun back in swimwear. As the name suggests, Summersault embodies movement and a solid, familiar relationship with water: you’re supposed to run, swim, dive and sidestroke, in them (and look sexy while doing these things). In trade for the extra support the girls need up top while racing their partners, they get to flash an extra-high leg (see ‘the causeway’ or ‘the high kick’). For those who want it the other way around – butt coverage, not top – one range allows the collarbone to have its day in the sun while facilitating Instagram worthy shots from any angle (see ‘the plunge’).
 
To this mix, Summersault’s adds its signature of colour play. Combinations are drawn from diverse cultural references: “You’ll see pink and red together, which we know through Indian clothing, but rarely associated with swimsuits,” Reshma explains. Also to break away from the cliché of centering swimsuit copy around tropical destinations (‘a St Tropez blue,’ yawn), Summersault relies on natural hues. The “sidestroke”, you will discover, mixes shades of  “lava, white sand and dragon fruit.” Yummy.
 
Culturally, it’s easy to see that Summersault is all about all over-the-map representation: it’s hard to find an image that does not celebrate the diversity of race or body size; here – ‘large’ is far from a six or eight. Moreover, expanding to a wider market while disrupting the idea of normalcy when it comes to women’s bodies remains Coulter and Chattaram’s focused goal.

“I want to make a size 16 woman feel sexy,” Reshma says, ready to take her two dogs who are have been constants on our Skype video call. With a story that is premised upon the relationship between success and inclusion, this goal seems close, at buoy’s length.
 
Getting there: Visit https://www.summersalt.com/, approximately Rs 7,000 for a swimsuit, plans to ship to India in the works.

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