Ask Julia Faye Davison what inspires her designs and she’ll tell you that Mother Nature is her go-to girl. She’ll also say that she relishes her artistic lifestyle and looks forward to the start of each new day. She’s a walking example of the idea that to be happy, you have to love your work.

Davison made her entrance into the Charleston fashion scene at Charleston Fashion Week 2010 as a participant in the Emerging Designer Competition. Though she didn’t win, she gained notice for her designs’ earthy elegance. This summer, Davison steps further into the world of fashion design with the debut of her women’s swimwear collection.

While this is her first true swimwear line, Davison’s petite frame and resulting difficulty in finding a bikini that fit properly spurred her to begin making swimsuits for herself three years ago. But this habit didn’t stem completely from necessity. “I love designing, especially swimwear. There are endless possibilities with swimwear — it’s my absolute favorite,” Davison says.

Davison’s swimwear collection acts as a kind of continuation of her spring line, which was inspired by the imaginative storyline of “a proud Native American man falling in love with a regal British woman.” This theme was the outcome of a love for Jane Austen novels and a childhood fascination with the Native American characters in Westerns. “I loved their way of life, organic elements, and beliefs,” she says.

Davison worked to incorporate more of the feminine, refined component from this story into her new collection. “I kept the same Native American elements and mixed them with Jane Austen-like feminine lines and ruffles,” she says. “I tried to concentrate more on pulling in these Jane Austen elements with my swimsuit line than in the spring CFW collection.”

The notes of rustic sophistication found in her spring collection are still apparent in her swimwear. With a color palette heavy in tans, browns, and forest greens, the swimsuits have a distinctly earthy air about them. The line’s organic quality may have something to do with Davison’s use of natural materials and dyes in the creation of her designs. She also integrates additional earth-friendly practices, most notably recycled leather, in the construction of her pieces. In this collection, Davison used recycled leather jackets, bits of old wooden earrings and necklaces, and metal pieces reclaimed from shoes, bags, and jackets.

The collection’s standout piece is a jewel-toned purple bikini with eye-catching brown leather fringe lining (cut from leather jackets rescued from thrift stores, of course) across the top. The use of fringe echoes throughout the collection in several other pieces, including a deep blue suit with short fringe across the top and a striking white bikini with fringe adorning the bottoms. Davison admits she is “obsessed with leather and how it smells and feels” — just remember that these particular pieces weren’t made to get wet. For those who aren’t brave enough to flaunt a chest dripping in fringe (or who plan on swimming), many of the suits are simply cut, with flattering shapes and sweet ruffles.

Davison will sell the swimsuits on her future website,

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