When Central Michigan University student Augusta Overy first started college, she never thought about going into fashion or any creative field. This week she is graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in fashion design and has created two collections of outfits, one of which won Collection of the Year at CMU’s Threads annual fashion show.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of years, but I really feel like I’ve come into my own as a fashion designer in that time,” Overy reflected.
Overy’s journey had a bit of a rough beginning when she started out as a chemistry major at Brigham Young University in Utah. In high school she excelled in her math and science courses, but was not prepared for the advanced chemistry class the university assigned to her.
“So halfway through my first semester in that chemistry class I realized that I could not be a chemistry major,” she said.
This gave Overy an opportunity to reevaluate what she wanted. She decided to take a series of classes the following semester that would improve her GPA and help her discover her true calling. One of those classes was her first sewing class.
“I thought, ‘You know, why not?’ It seemed like a fun class, something to keep my mind off the tough classes I had. So I took it and I loved it.”
Overy had no previous sewing experience, but was a quick learner. She enjoyed wearing the four garments that she had made in her lessons; after six months of sewing courses, she made her own wedding dress.
“My husband thought I was crazy. But when I walked out in it, he was like, ‘Wow! She can do some great work.’”
Soon after, her husband was offered a job at The Dow Chemical Co. and they moved to Midland three years ago. By that point, Overy had taken as many sewing classes at BYU as she could, thinking she could get a tailoring job or perhaps perform alterations. The couple had been living in Midland for about a year when Overy met a woman who knew a student who had graduated from the fashion program at CMU. Her interest piqued, Overy enrolled at the university and arranged for her credits from BYU to be transferred.
The past year alone has been a great resume-building experience she said, since she has been involved with several different projects.
One endeavor came about through a partnership between CMU and Spectrum Health Innovations. One of Spectrum’s clients, an alumna of CMU, was a breast cancer survivor in need of a thermal bra. Overy was part of a team of fashion and entrepreneurship majors and business partners who worked together to create a thermal bra that could be eventually released on the market.
The idea behind the project was that mastectomy patients, especially those who had undergone prosthetic reconstruction, often feel cold because the implants are not able to retain body heat. The team brought together their business and fashion skills to design and eventually market the bra. Although Overy does not wish to reveal any trade secrets about the material used, she acknowledged that two prototypes were designed, one focusing on insulation, the other with a low-permeable material.
“It really was a very concerted effort. We all pitched in and helped,” Overy said.
The group recently began marketing itself as a business and plans to launch a kickstarter campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. For more information about the venture, visit https://www.facebook.com/EmbraceBras/
Her most recent accomplishment was the result of a year’s planning and hard work. On Saturday, April 22, Overy showcased 10 outfits, or looks, over two collections in the university’s student-run fashion show, Threads.
Overy had entered four outfits for the show in her junior year, but only half of them made it to the runway. At that point, she understood that in order to perform well at the show, she would need much more time and preparation.
Last summer, Overy began working on her larger collection, titled “Pacific Disturbance.” The idea behind the collection was ocean sustainability, with each outfit representing an aquatic aspect. Overy even designed her own fabric, stitching yarn on tool topped with a water-soluable stabilizer. The yarn was effective, giving the feel of fishing nets. One dress hosted swirls of blue and coral-colored yarn along the bottom of the skirt, reminiscent of ocean topography charts. In a few pieces Overy used wire and hot glue to create the look of sea glass, representing pollution (sea glass is the result of glass containers being dumped in the ocean and then naturally smoothed by the water).
In order to properly prepare for Threads, Overy also enrolled in a Collections class last semester, which was specifically geared to prepare students for the annual fashion show. During those few short months, she created her second collection, “Eternal Perspective.”
“Thankfully, by the time I got into that class I already knew what I wanted to do and I was set to start making my fabric. I had laid out all of what I needed and put it together. All I needed to do was sew it together,” she said.
While “Eternal Perspective” is a smaller collection with only three looks, it resonates on a personal level for Overy. The title itself comes from her Mormon faith, with an emphasis on “looking beyond the here and now, and preparing for the future and always maintaining a hopeful perspective for the future as well,” according to Overy.
Two of the designs were taken from the San Diego California Temple’s stain glass windows, formatted using an origami style technique. The third outfit sports a sunflower pattern, with a jacket Overy created by using a laser cutter. The sunflower is especially meaningful to Overy because it is a prime example of the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical formula where each number is the sum of the two numbers before.
“That spiral can be seen the shapes of waves, it can be seen in the center of a sunflower, it can be seen in the shapes of certain shells. It can be seen in the shape of your DNA spiral even,” Overy explained. “So with the Fibonacci, a lot of people see it as like the fingerprint of God. I used that as my inspiration, bringing in my faith.”
In addition to her two collections, Overy also had two pieces entered in the mounted exhibition at Threads, including hand illustrations of her “Pacific Disturbance” designs and the original fabric she created. All in all, she had 12 entries in the show.
“Overall, I showed 10 more things this year than I showed last year.”
Her work even caught the eye of a fellow student and three-time Collection of the Year winner, Jason Gagnon. When he reviewed her designs in the Collections class, he told Overy that she had a good shot at winning if she kept her work up.
“I kind of fed off of that and really kept in mind, ‘I have to keep my work up, it’s not a given.’ But, with all the work I had done, I was really hopeful up to the last second, you know, fingers crossed.”
Overy’s dream came true when her “Pacific Disturbance” outfits earned the “Collection of the Year” award. Overy recalled being “beyond thrilled when they called my name.”
“This year was a wild success compared to last year,” she said with a laugh.
Overy explained that each of her projects begins with an idea or issue that inspires her. In turn, she hopes that the clothes she creates will captivate others and encourage them to be inspired by the meaning behind the material.
“It comes up at the very beginning, just understanding what inspires me. You’re not going to create something you care about unless you start at the basis of something you believe in. For me really, my designs, they kind of seem to come to me as I find that inspiration. It’s really meaningful to feel I can make a difference with the things I make.”
But Overy isn’t done yet. She will be taking her “Pacific Disturbance” collection to Omaha Fashion Week on Aug. 21 as an Emerging Designer. She also is entering the Fibonacci outfit for the design field as well as the entire “Eternal Perspectives” collection into the International Textile and Apparel Association competition.
“I’m really hopeful for the future of this collection. It’s been a great experience to be able to create it,” she said.