This swimwear designer has been featured more times than most

By Sarah Kinonen
Updated February 11, 2015 03:40 PM

Nabbing a coveted spot in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue can help launch a model’s career to super-stardom (just look at Kate Upton, Chrissy Teigen or Brooklyn Decker!), but getting your bikini in the issue can equally give a major boost to a swimsuit designer’s career. Just ask designer Nicole Hanriot, whose Beach Riot designs have been featured in the issue three years in a row, including five suits in this year’s issue and eight other suits that SI has posted online, gracing the bodies of models such as Lily Aldridge, Hailey Clauson, Irina Shayk, Hannah Ferguson and Ashley Smith.

We actually did ask her, and here’s what she had to say about the experience.

Hannah Davis Sports Illustrated

Ben Watts/ Sports Illustrated

PEOPLE: What is the process for getting in the issue?

I was lucky enough to meet MJ Day and Darcie Baum, who are in charge of the issue, at the Miami Swim Show a few years back. This year, we sent over 50 suits to them for their shoots. You just have to cross your fingers that something gets picked. They have so many different themes, shoots and locations, it’s a miracle if your suit matches the theme, looks good on the model, gets picked and works.

PEOPLE: What does it feel like when you find out a suit gets picked?

I describe it as like Christmas morning. We don’t know if our suits will be in the issue until we see it. It’s a surprise for us as much as the cover is a surprise. I hunt down the issue the day it comes out. For a bikini designer it’s like winning the lottery. To get the cover would be like winning the jackpot. It’s shock and excitement and then to see more than one suit, is so rewarding. It makes it even more special because it’s on an incredible supermodel, on location and shot beautifully.

PEOPLE: How did getting in the issue help your career?

When it was our first season launching Beach Riot in 2012 and we got featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition it helped rocket the launch and get us out there more than any other press we could have imagined. It helped get us into stores. Stores want to carry the line because it makes the suit more desirable and more people want to purchase it because of the model wearing it and the fact that it’s in such a prestigious magazine. I’ve had other magazines reach out after seeing our suits in the issue. It’s huge for a designer.

PEOPLE: Celebrities like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian and Ellie Goulding have worn your designs. Did getting in the issue help get your suits in front of more celebrities?

We get a ton of stylists who see our suits in the magazine and reach out. Nicki Minaj’s stylist requested a bunch of suits for a music video. Miley’s stylist reached out. It legitimizes your brand.

PEOPLE: How rare is it for a bikini designer to get featured more than once?

Even getting in the issue is rare. It’s by luck and what works for the story and the model. We are incredibly fortunate.

PEOPLE: Do you create bikinis specifically for this issue after the stylists tell you what styles they want?

They always want you to think outside of the box so we make suits for the issue that are special and one of a kind. For the body paint, we make a new fabric just for the issue that is special. If a suit gets in the issue and it happens to be one we made just for Sports Illustrated, we’ll try to get the suit into production and do a special sale on our website.

PEOPLE: What makes a great Sports Illustrated bikini?

The skimpier the better. It’s always good to use unique fabrics and silhouettes. The more unique, the better your chance. Most of the suits we have in the issue have really unique beading or textured fabrics. The one on Lily Aldridge is hand beaded in India. The one on Ashley Smith is a fabric we developed ourselves and is a knitted texture. The one with Hailey Clauson is a special laser cut. It is rare you will see a boring triangle bikini in the issue.

Have you seen the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue yet? If so, what bikini is your favorite?

–Laura Lane