I had no idea what I was in for upon reaching the prominent pillared, white house on Tappan, but after talking to Art & Design seniors Madisen Bathish and Francesca Kielb, I was happy to learn about the exciting yet relatively secret new brand they’d created. After only a few minutes of sitting in their kitchen and talking about fashion, their latest project and their hopes for the future, it was clear they had done something extraordinary with an inspiring purpose.
As two extremely talented Art & Design students, the prospect of graduating college with only an Art & Design major poses both incredible opportunity and, all-too-real, vulnerability. As members of the next generation of young artists, Bathish and Kielb possess exciting potential with their brilliant work, impressive résumés and bold femininity. Kielb was a former Managing Design Editor of the Daily. However, becoming a female entrepreneur with a major in Art & Design presents a daunting amount of pressure to overcome in the next four years. Even as progressive strides are made in regard to unbalanced aspects of the world, like the gender wage gap, women still face disadvantage, a dynamic brought to light constantly in the wake of the recent election. Graduating as an Art & Design student presents its own challenges, including a known lack of employment opportunities many majors are said to ensure.
In an effort to reduce federal spending, the Trump administration plans to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides essential funding in grants to the exhibition and cultivation of the arts. Despite taking up less than .003 percent of the nation’s yearly budget, cuts would have a drastic effect on the artistic community nationwide, especially for upcoming artists such as Bathish, who is hoping to pursue fashion merchandising, and Kielb, who is pursuing curation after graduation. Faced with this pressure and a passion to support like-minded women in the arts, the two came up with a trend-setting idea to take thrown-away clothing and transform it into something more fabulous. Their brand is called OVRKLL, and its resurrection of forgotten clothing makes an exclusive, sought-after look possible for any maximalist-conscious woman.
Over Winter Break, Kielb approached Bathish, remarking on the girls’ uncanny ability to sort through racks and piles of old, unwanted clothing. They realized they both loved the vintage look best found at thrift stores, and realized their ability to find the hidden gems could help others find the same exciting look every girl wants, but decides she doesn’t have the time, money or effort for.
After rooting through Salvation Army racks on any given day, the two would pool their findings: a tank from Dior, vintage tees, brand name jeans, a silk robe and faux fur accessories. Mostly designer, all chic and obviously opulent. Their hunts yielded a surprising amount of brand-name merchandise with the potential to form an iconic look. With an eye for potential and detail, the pair repurposed their findings with embellishments and alterations. The two showed me some of the latest treasures from their collection. Holding up their latest treasures, Bathish donned a pink bomber jacket, sporting a lip patch she’d crafted herself, while Kielb pulled out a black satin robe, complete with an Alexander McQueen label. While Bathish works with more of a fashion background, interested in the design and creation of clothing, Kielb is especially interested in the curative, marketing process. Kielb put it jokingly: “We both want to do what the other doesn’t” — making them the perfect team for the continuation of the brand.
When describing their own style and the look of OVRKLL, the two used one word over and over again: maximalism. It’s most easily described as an aesthetic rejection of minimalism, a difficult concept to execute in the world of art and fashion. For them, however, the idea is simple. Maximalism, as Bathish said, consists of “things you wouldn’t usually put together being put together to look fucking epic.” Seen in collections by the likes of Gucci and Prada, maximalist clothing is elaborate and luxurious, but lacking responsibility and accessibility. OVRKLL intends to take on a perspective that challenges the value we hold in our clothing, proving maximalism is possible without the price tag and excessive use of new materials. As they put it, “Through our own vision, we make something fabulous out of recycled means.”
Better yet, OVRKLL is part of a collaborative effort that goes beyond its own magnificent clothing and accessories. Kielb and Bathish have also created a pop-up shop for “women makers,” in which to sell OVRKLL the creations of numerous other female artists in the School of Art & Design. Other artists and designers can sell their works and take home full profit with no cuts required for a place in the pop-up shop. The overarching hope is for the effort to take on a life of its own with more and more student artists taking part over time.
The first pop-up shop is scheduled for Feb. 4 at Amer’s on Church Street. The two hope to transform the back of the deli into a fresh venue complete with drapes, screens, decorations and clothing racks for a boutique-y vibe. However, supporting the space for themselves and other artists costs money — more than one would think — which has encouraged the two to apply for an ADC Grant from the Art & Design School. They hope the space can grow into a unique opportunity for female entrepreneurs. Their newest collection can be seen on Facebook and Instagram at @SHOPOVRKLL.