Nicole Byer is many things: an actor, an author, a comic, a podcaster, a historic Emmy winner, and an expert judge of amateur baking, just to name a few. Now, she’s adding another accomplishment to the list: swimwear designer. Launching on July 18, the Nicole Byer x Kitty and Vibe collaboration consists of 12 pieces in three different prints (or “vibes,” in KV parlance).
For the Nailed It! host, swimwear was a natural choice for a collaboration, given how her relationship with bathing suits was a big part of learning to love her body (it’s even in her memoir’s title: #VeryFat #VeryBrave: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini). “A bathing suit is a thing that’s near and dear to my heart. I spent years not really swimming or wearing bathing suits because I was like, Nobody wants to see this,” she tells Refinery29. “And then I realized, my body is not for other people’s consumption. It’s for me, and it’s also a beautiful body… I got to a point where I was like, I love my body, and I love it in a bathing suit.”
With the collaboration, Byer hopes to enable other women to have this lightbulb moment: “I would love for women to be like, Oh, I can wear the same bathing suit as my friend, because this [size] range is so inclusive. Or, Yeah, I look cute. I look good. I just think we should all love the bodies we’re in.”
With cheeky banana and parrot prints, along with a cool textured palm motif in black, and swim styles ranging from deep plunge bikinis to cut-out one-pieces, the collaboration has something for everyone. And Kitty and Vibe’s new extended size range makes it more inclusive than ever, with the Nicole Byer collection available in sizes xs to 6x (the brand previously went up to 3x).
Scroll down to learn what Byer has to say about the collection, the unexpected style inspirations behind it, and navigating fashion and body image as a plus-size woman.
While this collection is your first foray into swim design, it’s not the first time you’ve addressed the topic of wearing a bikini. You coined #VeryFat #VeryBrave hashtags; what moved you to first use them?
Me and my friend Marcy were going to Palm Springs… I said “I’m only wearing bikinis this weekend. And people can look all they want, and I’ll yell at them that ‘I’m very fat and very brave!’ And I‘ll hashtag all my photos with that!” Then we laughed really hard.
When I went to post [those photos], I was like maybe I will just hashtag it “very fat, very brave.” And then I did. I don’t need to read about how you’re worried about my health and how I would look better if I was just smaller, or how fat I am. Do you think that fat people don’t know that they’re fat? There are mirrors everywhere in this world. I’m well aware of what I look like. If I want to change it, there are means for me to but, as of now, I like the body that I’m in, and I’m happy to wear a bathing suit that’s a two-piece because honestly, it’s easier to pee.
How did the Kitty and Vibe collaboration come about?
They came to me and asked, “Would you be interested in doing a collaboration?” And I said, “Yes, yes, I would. I love bathing suits, and I love that your range is super inclusive.” And I liked that they were expanding it to 6x. I just thought that was really special.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
I wear a lot of vintage stuff. I’ve always liked bright colors and form-fitting things, but as I get older, I’m like, Why don’t you just like wear the belly shirt? Show off your arms. It’s hot outside; wear shorts. I think it just evolved to me wearing exactly what I want, all the time, as opposed to what I think people want to see me in because that’s a weird way to live your life. Living your life in a way that’s like, Will people accept what I’m doing? Like who gives a shit if they accept what you’re doing? Be comfortable, wear exactly what you want to wear.
How did your aesthetic fit into the Kitty and Vibe collaboration?Someone [at Kitty and Vibe asked,] “What are you into?” And I responded, “I don’t know, the older I get, the more I love a bird.” So we’ve got this fabulous parrot print that is just so vibrant and full of color and pretty.
And then another print is bananas. I have a painting of a banana in my house that’s pixelated because I like phallic things. Take it how you want it! Very tongue-in-cheek. And it is also a cheetah print, because I love cheetah print. But it’s just fun. I think my whole thing is I don’t really take shit seriously. I just love prints and colors and silly shit. Like my favorite shoes right now are heeled Skechers that I once had in my youth. The [brand] reissued them, and I was like, “Let me buy two pairs!” I think fashion should be fun.
What’s one of the weirdest places you’ve ever gotten fashion inspiration from?
My Crest White toothpaste tube, for the Emmys. I went to my stylist Marko [Monroe], and said, “I really want to wear blues.” And he was like, “What [kind of] blues?” I said, “The blues on my Crest toothpaste tube.” And we both laughed about it, and then he responded, “Nicole that’s exactly what I was thinking.” He showed me the color selection he was thinking of, and I was like, “That’s fucking wild. You went to a fashion show and got [this] inspiration, and I was like, ‘Toothpaste??’”
I know firsthand the frustration of not being included when it comes to fashion. Have your on-set wardrobe experiences gotten better over the years?
I think it’s gotten worse! I was recently on a job where I cried multiple days because I was like, “You’re not bringing clothes that fit me!” We didn’t do any fittings. You have to fit something on a plus-sized body. You might have to take it in. I don’t have a “traditional” plus-sized body. If you ever buy a vintage set, it’s usually bigger on top, smaller on bottom, and I’m the opposite.
Nothing was fitted to me. Everyone else on set looked fine, and I didn’t even know we had a tailor until the second to last day. It’s really hard, and you have to continuously advocate for yourself. You have to look a [costume designer] in the eye and be like, “The clothes you’re bringing me don’t fit me and you’re making me feel bad about my body.”
I will say, there are other people, like the costume designer on Nailed It!, she’s really incredible and she found different brands that I didn’t even know of. So there are people out there who are cognizant and care and get a tailor and make custom things. But then for every person like that, there are like six people who don’t give a shit.
What makes you most excited about the Kitty and Vibe collab being out in the world?
For people to see the bathing suits and wear them and take pictures. It’s gonna be very cool when people buy them and take pictures and hashtag and tag me in them. I can’t wait for that!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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