Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

Payton McClure used to design dainty cocktail dresses. Now, she’s reconstructing ballistic bulletproof vests.

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As a merchandiser for Horace Small–a company that falls under the VF Imagewear, Inc. brand family–Payton develops standardized uniforms for law enforcement and first responder departments, improving products through hands on research. Whereas before she was scouring the Big Apple for the perfect fabric to build a Kay Unger sundress, now she’ll be conducting ride-a-longs with police departments across the country to grill them on fabric breathability.

“It’s a great challenge for me, but it’s been fantastic,” she says. “This is more of what I want to be doing in the future: fashion with a function and a purpose.”

Though her official title is merchandiser for the Nashville-based company, Payton’s day-to-day duties include everything from researching the newest fabric technology to redesigning uniforms for easier weapon access.

“Research is a big part of what I do. Then I take the uniform, upgrade and improve it,” she says. “It’s finding all that function as well as keeping it looking professional. It needs to get people’s attention when it enters the room.”

Barring her current position, Payton’s professional background includes costume and couture design. Immediately after graduation, the ’07 alumna packed up and headed for Las Vegas to work for Imagination Costume. She spent the summer with another O’More grad, beading intricate costumes, constructing crazy hats and piecing together feathered backpacks for showgirls.

“That was something completely different from anything I had experienced. I loved it because it was so hands on and crafty,” she says. “But I hadn’t explored all that I wanted to. I had a taste for New York City and I wanted to go back there.”

While at O’More, the design student interned for high-end fashion house Pamella Roland. She got to work New York Fashion Week, an experience that lit a fire under her to return. After the Sin City costume gig, Payton landed a job as an associate designer for Kay Unger New York. Before she decided to return to her home state, McClure spent nearly five years up north creating both daytime and couture pieces for the designer with a wide customer base.

“When I got the job, Kay Unger herself called me and said she remembered me in the interview,” she says. “She was such a great mentor and I learned so much there.”

Payton says her desire to design is in her blood: her grandmother taught her to sew at an early age, leading her to recreate her closet and make friends’ prom dresses in her teenage years. That entrepreneurial spirit is what encouraged her to take metalsmithing courses to begin her own future jewelry line.

“While I’m having to hardcore design in the day, this is my more girly outlet in the evening,” she says. “Creating has always been a passion of mine and I think this is the challenge I’ll need to keep me interested.”

While Payton was cultivating that creativity in high school, she thought of attending school on the west coast. But the Memphis native says she found a home just three hours from her own, where she spent her collegiate years living in an Andrew Jackson-built home just down the road from campus. She excelled in school and earned the top honor in the 2007 Eloise Student Fashion Show for “Royal Revenge” for a collection that rendered images of Gothic-style churches and intricate iron fences.

“O’More ended up being the perfect fit for me,” she said. “I loved all the personal attention you got from professors.  I was able to really do my own thing and they allowed creative freedom.”

“I fell right in and made it my home.”

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