Talent behind the trend: The work and inspiration behind campus trendsetters

Senior Ivy Miller presented her senior fashion line at the Student Innovation Center.

Ivy Miller

Senior Ivy Miller presented her senior fashion line at the Student Innovation Center.

Not only are they setting the trends, they’re creating them, too. When fashion designers create a new product, they are converting a feeling or concept into an item that resonates and tells a story.

Their items are inspired and have a purpose. They sketch designs, select patterns and sew garments for an industry that thrives on change. They create the items we desire and influence culture on a global scale. Iowa State University is overflowing with design staff and students with abundant inspiration and express themselves through unique ways.

Abigail Klauer

When Abigail Klauer, junior in apparel merchandising and design, was a senior in high school, COVID-19 struck the world. With extra time, Klauer thrifted a sewing machine and decided to learn how to sew using thrifted items. The now creative and technical design student originally planned to go to college to run track. With a newfound passion, she decided to change her plans and study fashion at Iowa State University.

Rapid change is nothing new for Klauer, especially regarding her style.

“We shouldn’t categorize ourselves into what we think our style falls under because I feel that limits us as individuals,” Klauer said. “I have expressed myself through funky textiles, colorful patterns and statement pieces, but I also enjoy simple structured looks. Most of my designs come from how I feel as a person.”

Klauer expressed how she used to struggle with expressing her emotions and feelings, leaving her dependent on art and fashion to communicate effectively.

Junior Abigail Klauer modeling a top she designed out of gloves. (Cam Simmons)

During the summer before studying at Iowa State University, she created a denim dress for a country concert. She had no formal training and knew nearly nothing about constructing at this time. Regardless, she was determined to wear a unique design she made herself. Equipped with lined notebook paper and thrifted jeans, she assembled a dress that is her proudest design to date.

“Although this may not have been my best-looking piece or most creative, it’s my favorite because that was the moment of hope I needed to continue pursuing my major,” Klauer said.

Klauer has found confidence in expressing herself by making clothing items she can wear. This theme has carried into her college experience. She has committed herself to staying curious and ambitious when experimenting with her style, not only when designing but also on a day-to-day basis. This has helped her feel secure in her design choices and continue to evolve as a person. She expressed that it is easy to burn out as someone who is constantly creating, especially when your art revolves around something essential to go about your day.

“In my major, there are not a ton of ways to know if you are doing well or not,” Klauer said. “Comparison will actually kill you, and most professors won’t go out of their way to tell you that you belong in your major, so you have to tell yourself. I am definitely my biggest cheerleader and would not be here without my dedication.”

For now, Klauer is continually developing her vision with hopes of creating impact through her style and designs.

Jason Gagnon

From working as a hairstylist in a small town in Michigan, to studying couture in Paris, to working as a Technical Designer at Kohls and Carharrt, Jason Gagnon, assistant professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, has worn many hats throughout his career.

His passion for clothing started as a teen. Growing up with a vibrant personality, he wasn’t always accepted in an isolating Catholic town. However, with his dad living in New York, he spent lots of time there and dreamed of when he could freely experiment with his style. He started with accessories because it felt safe.

“In today’s America, I sometimes wonder, should I wear this or should I dress down?” Gagnon said. “You’re in your closet, and you’re like, if I just throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, no one will stare at me, but then I’m not me.”

His style began to flourish after cosmetology school working as a hairstylist. Working in a setting where it is required to wear all black forced him to experiment with silhouettes and proportions, which is his favorite aspect of clothing now. When watching New York Fashion Week, he always found himself more interested in what the stylist wore behind the scenes rather than the show itself. He felt connected to and inspired by them.

Jason Gagnon displays his personal street style.

When Gagnon decided to pursue a degree in merchandising and design at Central Michigan University, he was exposed to the opportunity to study couture fashion in Paris. This experience continued to affirm his love of design with unique proportions. He was able to intensely study the Fashion House Balenciaga firsthand. Studying a house known as a trailblazer in the specialty motivated and amplified his eagerness to begin his career. Gagnon worked as a technical designer for Kohls, then moved to Carharrt.

However, working for brands with such strong identities can be limiting to your style.

“Surprisingly, in the corporate office, there’s a lot of people like me who work there, so we really had to chuck who we were to the side to focus on the customer, and a good designer can do that,” Gagnon said.

His distinctive work outfit included drop-crotch pants and a saggy beanie. He wore jeans to work once because he was backed up on laundry, and his co-workers questioned if he was okay.

Now, Gagnon is primarily influenced by Japanese and Asian street styles. However, as a designer, he loves recreating expensive designer items at home with a personal interpretation. This is usually avant-garde silhouettes and loose tailoring.

“I make about 75% of my own clothing now, so I have a lot of cool, unique pieces I love,” Gagnon said.

Ivy Miller

Picking out the right combination of clothing and accessories has always been equally exciting and nerve-racking for senior creative and technical design student Ivy Miller. From flowy fabrics to edgy layering, Miller has always been inclined to experiment with her style.

When she got her first job her sophomore year of high school, Miller began to thrift and mix and match the unique pieces she would find with items already in her closet. Her newfound fascination has evolved her ability to solve problems and adapt to changes as a designer.

“It allows me and my designs to constantly change, grow and not get weighed down by the pressure,” Miller said. “I can be creative by adding another level to expressing my moods and how I’m feeling in one day. If there is a day where I want to try and step out of my comfort zone, I twist how I identify with the clothing I wear and how people may perceive me in them.”

The feeling of dressing as a form of personal evolution has been carried into the clothes she designs.

As a senior in design, one of Miller’s most significant assignments is creating her senior line. She created a line that is an extension of herself. Gathering inspiration from the sci-fi movie, “Dune,” Miller used her style to bridge the gap between contemporary fashion and costuming. This was done by the line being a range of linen, earthy pieces that range from classic silhouettes to bold new styles. She incorporated capes, hoods and wide cuts into the structure of the designs. Ivy drew on her personal experiences in layering to further inspire the collection.

“I love to mix and match, so a lot of my outfits can end up being a lot of layering,” Miller said. “This inspired my favorite ensemble of my senior line. It had a separate twist hood/ face covering, a top and sleeves that were connected to a harness and wide-leg pants.”

Her finished line is “Uniquely Ivy.” She brings depth to mundane fabrics.

Miller is excited to carry on experimenting with layers and textures into her life post-graduation. She views the clothes she wears and makes as a form of expression. Her outfits may be based on her mood for the day or as a personal experiment of how she feels in certain ensembles. Miller rebels against fashion rules and gives life to compelling clothing combinations.