Photos by Melitza Beltran.
After years and years of empty promises and experience in the fashion industry, longtime friends Christa Bischofberger and Kristy Kalsman decided to reunite and take the plunge of starting their own company.
Cal State Long Beach’s fashion design program introduced the girls to each other, but their similarities bound them together. Their union gave birth to Saltwater Luxe—a hybrid fashion line founded by the two, where casual beachwear meets luxury, ready-to-wear articles of clothing.
Since the October 5, 2015 launch of their website and introduction to boutique stores, the girls have been neck deep in Saltwater Luxe.
“It was the next step in our careers, and it was just the time to start doing what we wanted,” Bischofberger told the Post. “We didn’t want to work for a junior company anymore; we wanted to create things that we were gonna wear.”
“We have a really similar aesthetic and similar taste, and we always talked about how we work really well together,” Kalsman said.
While at different companies, they would occasionally grab dinner together. A couple of glasses of wine later, talks about their empire would surface. But it wasn’t until after the birth of Bischofberger’s now 16-month-old baby boy that things really began to pick up.
“I was ready, so I told her ‘I need your help, you gotta come on board with me,’” Bischofberger said.
On February 21 through 23, the fashion duo is set to hit New York’s Axis Trade Show, where thousands of buyers and sellers will converge to build platforms and expand business. They’re taking their personalized garments, which are designed to be effortless and versatile, in hopes of making a name for themselves.
It’s the feel-good feminine, yet bohemian free-spirit, pieces that distinguish Saltwater Luxe from other brands. Because they don’t limit themselves to trends, the girls draw inspiration from all of life’s funny corners.
Yet, Bischofberger’s residence in Long Beach and Kalsman’s residence in Huntington Beach in particular makes a pronounced influence on the brand, according to Kalsman.
“We just love the beach, the easy beach lifestyle, and we just love the idea of being able to wear our clothes to the beach, to brunch and out to dinner,” Kalsman said.
“We have a kimono that can be worn over a swimsuit, or over jean shorts and a tank top or buttoned up and belted to wear when you’re out at night,” Bischofberger added.
Minimizing life’s tedious moments is what these beach girls are all about.
“That’s just how we roll,” Bischofberger laughed.
Despite their love of the craft, they’ve found that it’s a lot more complicated than they imagined. Not only do they design their merchandise, as well as oversee every aspect of production from pattern-making to choosing trims, they’ve also got to budget and track orders.
“It’s just the little things when you work for other companies that you take for granted and then when you own your own company, you kind of have to take care of everything,” Bischofberger said.
Their creations are brought to life in a Los Angeles manufacturing facility where, if they don’t love the final product, they continue tweaking the design and working with the manufacturer until it meets their standards.
Bischofberger converted her garage into a storage-like-unit, where they keep all their merchandize and stock orders, but the space is gradually becoming more and more crowded. Within the next month, the girls will officially move into a bigger warehouse, that will include a space for a shared office, in Long Beach.
Their momentum has even garnered the attention of L.A. Fashion Week, which invited the girls to host their own fashion show at this year’s event. The exposure serves their goal of creating name-recognition and status.
The goal is to eventually introduce Saltwater Luxe to stores in Oregon, Washington, and possibly the East Coast.
“It becomes 99.9 percent of your life,” Kalsman said. “…It’s just become our life, this is like our baby now.”
Saltwater Luxe products are currently featured at Stitch and Feather in Seal Beach and the Hidden Jewel Boutique in Costa Mesa. The brand can also be found online at Saltwaterluxe.com.
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