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Summersalt is the Latest Brand to Cash in on the Travel Trend

The direct-to-consumer brand made waves with its size-inclusive swimwear. Now it wants to sell sweaters and pajamas too.
Summersalt's sweater and travel kit | Source: Courtesy
  • Cathaleen Chen

NEW YORK, United States — Summersalt is the latest direct-to-consumer brand to wade into the burgeoning travel goods market.

The swimwear brand, which expects sales to balloon to $40 million this year, from $5.6 million in 2018, plans to launch apparel and accessories next month. The collection includes travel-friendly pants and sweaters, as well as pajamas, bodysuits and a cashmere travel set. Prices start at $25 and go up to $125.

While spending on clothing has stagnated in recent years, the so-called experiential industry is on the rise: money spent on dining out, entertainment and travel is growing four times faster than spending on goods, according to McKinsey. This trend has inspired a bevy of brands — both traditional fashion labels and direct-to-consumer upstarts — to chase categories such as swimwear, luggage, overnight bags and other travel-adjacent categories.

“As we think about societal shifts on status symbols, travel is at the forefront of consumer’s wallet, just like how athleisure was a few years ago,” said Reshma Chamberlin, who co-founded Summersalt alongside Lori Coulter.

With the right marketing, products are more aligned to lifestyle rather than fashion or function. Brands that excel at this, such as Away with its popular carry-on roller luggage, have been able to steal market share from category incumbents.

The rise of the travel retail business can be partly attributed to Instagram: 97 percent of millennials travellers post on social networks which vacationing, according to research from Chase Bank.

Summersalt’s Chamberlin and Coulter said they’ve always known that the brand would expand into apparel. “We intentionally made decisions along the way that allowed us to move from swimwear to apparel,” Coulter told BoF. “We’re really focused on inspiring that sense of adventure and wanderlust from the beginning” — messaging that extends beyond swimwear.

Timing, however, was the most critical issue for the brand, she added. “It’s having to think through when do you have enough scale from a consumer perspective [to launch new categories] but also not being too late where the consumer can’t see you beyond your one category,” she said.

Summersalt raised $6 million in funding last year, and has garnered praise for its diverse and size-inclusive message. Its “Everybody is a Beach Body” campaign over the summer featured 30 women of all ages, sizes and abilities.

Solid & Striped, another popular swimwear label, launched its own apparel and skincare collection earlier this year. Away, too, has plans of launching apparel products next year, according to co-founder Jen Rubio, citing a market gap in a one-stop destination for shoppers putting together their travel ensemble from luggage to the outfit they wear on a long flight.

“As we start to think about different categories like apparel, it’s crowded and there’s more brand affinity in these industries,” she said. “But there isn’t one brand that dominating the space that creating products specifically designed for active travel.”

Ultimately, expanding into another product category should not mean less focus on a brand’s hero products.

“We don’t want to distract from the growth of our core business but at the same time we’re committed to being the transformational travel brand,” Coulter said.

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