Designing patterns, embellishing fabrics, and creating timeless fashions that convey the Southern California beach lifestyle are the skills that two friends combined to launch Saltwater Luxe, a brand dedicated to upscale luxury beachwear. Christa Bischofberger and Kristy Kalsman have impressive credentials and a growing list of customers from across the nation and around the globe who have purchased since their start-up in late 2015. The women studied fashion design together at Cal State Long Beach and tackled projects for brands like RipCurl, Roxy, Billabong, and HangTen. Growing a brand and running a business was a completely new challenge.
“We felt it was the right time in our careers,” said Christa. She and Kristy discussed starting their own line for many years and finally took the plunge and rolled out their first fashions. Orders came early on from East Coast cities including New York and Philadelphia and the reach of social media was a catalyst for orders from Australia.
The two stay busy working out of their office in Long Beach and collaborating with a production company in the heart of Los Angeles. They’ll add personal touches to the garments, ship the packages, and stay in contact with the customers. Is there such a thing as brand loyalty for a start-up? The ladies believe so.
“We definitely think that girls are loyal to brands when they feel connected,” said Christa. “We’ve had some customers re-order and say ‘you get me’ and ‘I love your brand.’ They’re going to follow us and see where our collection goes.”
The calendar says winter 2016 but Christa and Kristy are busy designing fashions for the fall. Their business model is centered on designing limited runs so that when the last piece is sold, the particular item is out of stock.
It’s easy for business partners to not see eye-to-eye but the women, who personally wear similar styles, trust each other with their opinions and they merge their ideas. As their lines gain traction, so do the operational needs of the business and that’s perfectly fine.
Others who are looking to venture out as entrepreneurs, say the ladies, should leverage their skills and get to work. “If you really want to do it, then do it and stick with it if it’s your dream and realize that it’s not for the faint of heart,” says Christa.
Hard work pays off and for Christa and Kristy that means pouring over patterns and spending many hours to design fashions that look like a breeze. In the case of Saltwater Luxe, that means an ocean breeze.