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Featured Shop: Collective Hearts Swimwear

May 11, 2017

by Katie Hawley handmade and vintage goods

“What is more terrifying and dreadful for the majority of women than swimsuit shopping?” asks Ashley Nixon, the talented designer behind Collective Hearts Swimwear. For many women, including yours truly, the answer is a resounding: nothing. “Swimsuit shopping has always been hard for me,” says Ashley. “As a curvy woman myself, I know how discouraging it can be to go shopping for a swimsuit and have it not even come close to fitting. I wanted to change that experience.” And change it she has, with her colorful, brightly patterned line of vintage-inspired swimwear. Available in mix-and-match sizes ranging from 2 to 32, they’re designed to make women of all shapes and proportions look and feel beautiful.

“The feedback I’ve received is just incredible,” says Ashley, who opened shop on Etsy in 2012. “Women send me messages saying it’s the first time they’ve felt beautiful in a bikini in years, or that they finally feel confident enough to wear a swimsuit in public. And that’s kind of amazing—you can really change someone’s confidence just with some fabric.”

Read on to discover Ashley’s favorite swimsuit style and her unconventional approach to model casting, and shop the Collective Hearts collection.

How did you get started designing swimwear?

I went to school for apparel design in Indiana, but as you can maybe imagine, there’s not much out there in Indiana for fashion. There is, however, a weird amount of show choir—show choir was actually invented in Indiana. I started out cutting costumes, and ended up getting into management. Then, when the show choir company I was working for decided to move to Florida, they held a big fabric sale. There was a ton of swimsuit material that they used for dance costumes, and I just knew it was a challenge I wanted to tackle. It was July 2012 when I listed my first suit on Etsy; I got a pretty good response and kind of fell in love with making swimsuits.

How has your line evolved over time?

Over the years, I’ve definitely gotten more organized with patterning. That was my weakest spot at the beginning—I was being a little lazy with it and only creating the different patterns as I got new orders. But now when I make a new design, I’ll pattern every size. I also think my design aesthetic has evolved; it still stays true to where I started, but it’s not just totally girly anymore.

Photo by Karla Hughes.

Photo by Karla Hughes.

So how would you describe your aesthetic today?

I still love girly things—bows and ruching and all that—but I’ve moved towards other design aesthetics. I love to color block. I don’t usually do a lot of patterns; I have polka dots and stripes and a few other things, but I really like solid colors more. And if I’m going to have a bow, I want it to be a woman’s bow, versus a little girl’s. I want it to feel womanly—semi-modest, but still sexy.

I also love vintage styles. That’s where a lot of my inspiration draws from, but I try to keep it pretty modern with my designs and colors so it’s not too kitschy. I still keep with that retro vibe, but I want my pieces to be seen as garments for 2017.

Where else do you look for inspiration?

I like to look to old movies sometimes. I actually got inspired by Jaws a lot this year, which is kind of creepy, but it’s my husband’s favorite movie. I love looking at the costumes and all the old swimsuits. I drew a lot after I watched that movie; I just felt really inspired.

I also look to everyday fashion, and follow along with the different fashion weeks. I like to see what’s predicted for upcoming trends and then try to put my own twist on them.

Photo by Ashley Nixon.

Photo by Micala McClain.

Speaking of trends, what’s popular in the world of swimsuits this season?

From what I’ve seen, it looks like high-waisted suits are really coming up. It also seems like pieces with a lot of straps are pretty big right now. I have a couple ideas in that vein that I’m going to try to make for this year. And I’m seeing a lot of sheer fabric cut-outs too, which is fun.

What’s your personal favorite style?

I think that high-waisted swimwear was the best invention for swimwear, ever. Especially for me as a new mom, I’ll probably never go back to anything but high-waisted. It’s not about hiding your body; it’s making you more comfortable. When I first started in 2012, I didn’t really see that style anywhere, but luckily the world has caught on a little bit.

I love being able to help women feel confident in a two-piece swimsuit—that’s definitely one of my goals. As a woman, there is so much pressure to be wearing a bikini, so I wanted to make a suit that you could be confident, sexy, and comfortable in.

Photo by Micala McClain.

Confident is exactly the word I’d use to describe your models. Where do you find them?

When I have photo shoots, I really want to show all women. I want to show women with big thighs and women with small chests—I just want everyone to know that they’re included in this line. And when I have gone about finding models, it really is everyday people for the most part. One girl that I’ve used continuously was a bartender that I met. And a couple people I shot in Chicago, I met on the street the night before and just said, “I’d love for you to model for me.” It’s amazing how people open up and say yes.

What does the future hold for Collective Hearts Swimwear?

I would always like to be doing this. My whole end goal is to help women love their bodies. That’s really what I aspire to do, to help you feel comfortable in your own skin and not worry about how you look to the world. I want you to feel beautiful. That’s my goal.

Follow Collective Hearts Swimwear on Instagram and Facebook.

Photographs by Kayleigh Nixon unless otherwise noted.

Shop Collective Hearts Swimwear


  • rhondastubbs2

    Rhonda Stubbs from RhondaCorner said 4 years ago

    Wow! What a great story and I love your swim wear. Your colors are vibrant and so are you! Congratulations on your feature and I wish you the very best on you future endeavors.

  • PrimCountryCurtains

    Francine from HomespunHeartofMine said 4 years ago

    What FUN designs, Ashley...and reasonably priced as well!!! The hounds tooth pattern is the perfect fabric for your classic designs. Congratulations on the feature and many blessings for your continued success! :D

  • ClassicMemories

    ClassicMemories from ClassicMemories said 4 years ago

    Lovely shop. Congrats on the feature.

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Beautiful work! Congratulations on the feature!

  • VadimMoroz

    Vadim Moroz from VadimMorozArt said 4 years ago

    Congratulations on the feature! All the Best!

  • HabitNationUSA

    Rebecca and Daniel from HabitNationUSA said 4 years ago

    Nice shop! I love everything about it - the style, your models, workspace. Congrats on the feature and for doing something that you love and have a passion for.

  • sandeeyessick

    Sandee Yessick from MiMisFavoriteThings said 4 years ago

    Lovely story! Your swim wear is amazing! Congratulations on your feature, following you and hope to make a purchase soon. Continue the good work, love enterprising women! Kudos!!! Sandra Yessick

  • RandMhandmade

    Renee from RandMhandmade said 4 years ago

    Love all of this...Congratulations!!

  • GTDesigns

    renee and gerardo from GTDesigns said 4 years ago

    Gorgeous!! Love love love the retro feel to this line AND those mints and black patterns....awesome designs!! Congrats on a fab write up!!

  • msbijouxbeads

    Cathy from msbijouxbeads said 4 years ago

    Love your designs and your shop is lovely! Great feature, congratulations

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 4 years ago

    Great shop! Love the stripes! Congrats on the feature!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 4 years ago

    Great swimsuits! It's wonderful that we no longer have to stuff our selves into off the rack and make the best of it. Love the variety.

  • chezviolette

    Coco Flower from CocoFlowerShop said 4 years ago

    Lovely collection ! I love the style and the models. It's for every women and it's great. I wish you lot of success.

  • cardurban

    Heidi Bondarenko from thecleverclove said 4 years ago

    I love this! Most swimsuit garb sets such an UNREASONABLE standard of perfection and beauty for women - it's like they are designed specifically to look unflattering on any woman with a real body - i.e. not an rail-thin model. I love your mission, and your happy designs!

  • bonesbags

    viena bone from bonesreusablebags said 4 years ago

    Wow, I am really loving your swimsuits! As a mom of four, the high waisted suits are a blessing! Your pieces are so fun and practical. They look pretty affordable, too. I look at them and they look like something I could just sit comfortably in, and not worry about spilling out of anywhere that I don't want to be spilling out of! Congrats on the success and the feature!

  • foofoogal54

    foofoogal54 from GracefulVtgClothing said 4 years ago

    How wonderful. I love polka dots and that suit caught my eye. Retro vibe also and as a lover of vintage thank you. Congratulations on the feature.

  • exclusive72

    Valentina . from Exclusive72 said 4 years ago

    Lovely shop. Congratulations!

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from UrbanDesertNM said 4 years ago

    Wow, what a great shop! I love your designs and Jaws is one of my favorite movies too. Congrats on the feature and wishing you much success!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 4 years ago

    Wonderful designs! Congrats!

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 4 years ago

    Beautiful line for swim wear! Congratulations on the feature!

  • JewelMeShop

    Georgia from JewelMeShop said 4 years ago

    Lovely designs, great shop! Congrats!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from KarmaCodeOne said 4 years ago

    So beautiful ~ Fun read ~ Cheers to much continued success !

  • LapCatYarnCo

    Sonja from LapCatYarnCo said 4 years ago

    Gorgeous swimsuits and models!

  • tlpjenpierce1

    Jennifer and Gary Pierce from LoftAtticEarth said 4 years ago

    You have a wonderful line, suits that are stylish, functional and flattering! Best wishes as the sunning/swimming season starts and as your business grows.

  • Halfsquares

    Austeja Square from HalfSquares said 4 years ago

    Amazing! Love your work!!

  • BelkaUA

    Olesya Bagriy from BelkaUA said 4 years ago

    Beautiful shop! Congratulations on the feature!

  • solomia7

    Monika Moroz from NickoArts said 4 years ago

    Wonderful collection. Congratulations on the feature of your beautiful shop. I wish you much success :)

  • isewcute

    June from isewcute said 4 years ago

    What a cute shop! Congrats on the feature!

  • Konotopchiklena

    Lena Konotopchik from Spiritofwomenjewels said 4 years ago

    superb. really good. All the best.

  • HeyChica

    Hey Chica from HeyChica said 4 years ago

    I love the philosophy behind your shop. Lovely designs, congrats!

  • poupeeflore

    Matell from PoupeeFloreParis said 4 years ago

    Really nice to have this approach. That the swimsuit fits the woman so she doesn't have to try to fit into the swimsuit! Bonne chance Kayleigh.

  • cardhugs

    Rosemary Lambert from cardhugs said 4 years ago

    Love your use of color. I'd like to see some swim skirts added and suits offered for the different body shapes, as in pear, rectangular, hour glass, and so on. Let us know which suit works best on a certain body type. Your models do a good job of showing off the suits. They appear to be well made. Nice photography too.

  • olga11223

    Olga from LinenAndTailor said 4 years ago

    Lovely collection, lovely shop! Congratulations on the feature!

  • evolvewithmary

    evolvewithmary from evolvewithmarycrafts said 4 years ago

    This is such an awesome shop story! I love your style and how you embrace the differences in each of us & how that's reflected in your creations! Congrats on the feature!

  • NaomiLevitin

    Naomi Levitin from NaomiLevitin said 4 years ago

    This concept is so great! Congrats on the feature!

  • ponyhoney

    Debi from MadGirlRetro said 4 years ago

    I haven't bought a bathing suit in years. I'm going shopping!

  • 1StopSteampunkShoppe

    One Stop Steampunk Shoppe from OneStopSteamShoppe said 4 years ago

    Wow, lovely and creative vintage designs! : )

  • khealeybinns

    Kerry Healey-Binns from QuerkyBitsbyKerry said 4 years ago

    Not only are the swimsuits the most exciting I have seen in a long time, they are designed for my figure type which I describe as 'classical'. Your shop is lovely. The models are wonderful and while obviously modern swimwear they are just revealing enough. I love your targeting strategy. You obviously love what you do. Thanks.

  • kgarrett1966

    R.M Garrett from ArtisticAcrylics said 4 years ago

    You are amazing! Thank you for including plus sizes in your line, and making them look as sexy, comfortable, and stylish as the slimmer sizes. That means a lot to me as a plus size woman, who usually passes on swimwear because their usually too revealing, tight, and leave little to the imagination, or so slinky it's more like strange sleepwear (giggle). Thank you for being so thoughtful, and congratulations on your much deserved feature!

  • leonardturpin

    Leonard Williams said 4 years ago


  • evolvewithmary

    evolvewithmary from evolvewithmarycrafts said 4 years ago

    Beautiful swimwear to make every woman feel beautiful!

  • teerasakborkam

    Teerasak Borkam from TribalAndHarem said 4 years ago

    Beautiful and Cute

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 4 years ago

    LOVE !!! I LOVE your swimsuits !!!

  • emaxtees

    emaxtees from EmaxTees said 4 years ago

    Congrats on the feature, nice job!

  • PlexisArt

    Eleni from PlexisArt said 4 years ago

    Lovely items ♥ Congrats on the feature !!!

  • SeaminglySmitten

    SeaminglySmitten from SeaminglySmitten said 4 years ago

    You do a beautiful job color blocking and I love the retro styles you make! Great article! Congrats!

  • unikalno1

    unikalno1 said 4 years ago

    Super! :)

  • vittoriswimwear

    Vittori Swimwear from VittoriSwimwear said 4 years ago

    Enjoyed your story. Thank God for creating something different but still useful and practical. So feminine. So elegant.

  • robertwente

    Robert Wente from RobertWenteArtworks said 4 years ago

    Its cool to see the photos of you in the studio and with sketchbook. Keep up the great work!

  • angelinabella

    alice proia from angelinabella said 4 years ago

    wonderful designs!

  • angelabisson1717

    Angela Bisson from Artdrivein said 4 years ago

    Love the chic retro look! ;)

  • amyedwin

    Amy from DearestFriend said 4 years ago

    I LOVE that you gather inspiration from old movies, and from Jaws! It's one of my favorites. I think it shows in your design - they seem authentically vintage. Beautiful shop, and very inspiring post.

  • rachbing

    Rachel Bingaman from BingArt said 4 years ago

    Love these swimsuit designs!

  • ehcdesignstudio

    EHC Design Studio from EHCDesignStudio said 4 years ago

    I love your story and your suits! I'm going to look at your store and make notes as to which suits I can see myself in. I have a drawer full of skinny-body bikinis... aaand I'm no longer that body shape! Haha. I'd really like to embrace my figure while I work on a happy medium and I have yet to try a high-waisted suit. So many friends of mine have them and they are so cute and flattering. I feel like I would be happy and comfortable wearing one of your creations! Congrats on the feature, Ashley!

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