KATONAH, N.Y. – It is a startup story that one could easily imagine on an episode of “Shark Tank.” A telegenic mother-daughter team who came up with an original idea for a fashion item and took the concept all the way from sketches to a manufacturer—and now have a debut collection for their recently launched online business called OverLay Fashion.
Denise Cirillo, a Katonah native, and her daughter Clare, a 2012 graduate of John Jay High School, believe that customers will respond to the versatile wearable items they have created, which are designed to embellish an outfit. The product is a sheer overlay that tops dresses, skirts and shorts that “allow women to transform their wardrobe with our pieces—and wear them with things that are already in their closet,” Clare said. They wanted the merchandise to be affordable, portable and all made in America, so each item is priced under $50 and is delivered to customers in a string bag, she added.
Clare, a graduate of Fordham University, works full-time as a model in Manhattan; she has been seen on a billboard in Times Square, starred in campaigns from American Eagle, Maybelline and Target, among others, and has walked the runway for multiple designers including Kanye West. Her red hair, freckles and sharp eye for street-style has made her a standout early in her career.
Starting a fashion line, she said, has given her a sense of excitement and purpose.
“I knew I loved fashion and I wanted to be in the industry, I just didn’t know exactly what path I was going to take,” she said. “I want OverLay to hit the Midwest, the West Coast, to have it all over the country, all over the world.”
Her mother, a former marketing guru who has launched fragrances and worked in advertising, said that after she saw her daughter modeling an outfit adorned with a sheer overlay, it hit her that the overlay itself could be a must-have wardrobe item. The duo teamed up and designed the pieces using various fabrics like chiffon, mesh and organza; all are meant to allow the clothes underneath to be seen.
“It is to transform your wardrobe, to really enhance it,” Denise said. “For instance, I have this little black dress that I had in my closet for 35 years and I wore it to my reunion—I topped it with an overlay and it looked completely different.”
They encourage customers to incorporate an outfit that they already feel comfortable in and to get inspired to build a brand new look.
“Everyone has those few dresses they love, that fit them perfectly—or a pair of shorts, but everyone has seen them one hundred times. Well, you can still get that fit and shake it up,” she explained.
Both mother and daughter saw the potential for this item to be a practical solution to the problem of buying expensive prom wear that young women face. They have collaborated with the national organization, Operation Prom, and will donate some of their product in order for prom-goers to re-purpose dresses so they are able to create a completely new look for their big night. The team is also designing a collection specifically for this purpose and plan one for bridesmaids as well.
“We want to get seriously involved in that—we’re honestly passionate about it—I think with any business, if you do some sort of charity work with intention behind it, that is bigger than just some article of clothing,” Clare added.
As for working together, Denise said, starting her own business is something she has thought about for a very long time and now working with her daughter “is like a dream.” With a laugh and a wink she added, “she can be bossy though.”