Fern Mallis (who needs no introduction to our readers) recently headed to Omaha Fashion Week in Nebraska and reports back with the names to know.
At the very end of August, I spent three days attending Omaha Fashion Week, which believe it or not was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Ever since I left IMG and my role as organizer of NYFW in 2010, I’ve enjoyed being a guest and consultant to a wide variety of “regional” fashion weeks. I love the energy, the commitment of the various organizers, and the emerging talent that surfaces all over the country. I meet with the designers, give them advice, and listen to their dreams.
I love seeing everyone dress up and wear their most fashionable attire to attend these Fashion Weeks, whether in Philadelphia, San Antonio, Nashville or Charleston. Everyone I met in Omaha loves living there, in what they call a “fly over state.” There are tons of restaurants, not so many retail shops, and very little traffic on the roads—in fact I could count on one hand how many cars were on the road in front or behind us. And of course there is Warren Buffett. His house, which is on the quick tour, is very modest by any standard—right on the street next to other houses, but properly fenced in with security cameras. I’m told it’s a bit misconceiving as it is pretty large in the back and has a basketball court.
But back to OFW: My hosts were Brook and Nick Hudson, a very attractive and stylish couple who own the event and the building the shows are housed in, the Omaha Design Center. Nick is a Brit whose family was in the apparel/textile industry and he settled in Omaha after being there on a business trip and married the former Miss Nebraska. Together they’ve built a credible platform they call the “Midwest’s Premier Fashion Event,” the nation’s 5th largest fashion event. Their event booked 700 models to walk in six days of shows. They had designers fly in from Portland, Seattle, New York, and St. Louis to show and celebrate at OFW.
Guest judges for the finale included me, and Project Runway alumni Michael Drummond and Amanda Valentine. I’ve always felt that talent can be found everywhere, and one doesn’t have to be in New York to be a designer or to have a business. Regional fashion weeks help give a chance to these talents. They provide a professional runway experience with production, hair, and makeup teams and models, all of whom come together with love and compassion to help them see their dreams come true on a runway. In Omaha I was pleased to see two nights of fashion shows, first the retrospective of 10 years of talent who have been at OFW, and then to meet and lunch with 10 emerging talents and see most of their work on the runway.
We judged the collections and happily selected two winners for the week. The emerging talent was Korinne Zimmerman and her collection “Zaftig Kitty.” She’s a single mom and in a very short time with a broken sewing machine in her basement produced a very spirited and fun plus-size collection. It was colorful, with lots of mixed fabrics and separates, and has great potential. Her prize was geared at talent development and education.
The top featured designer who we selected came from New York. Juantiesa Christian for SuShe by J.Tracey had a very thoughtful collection of prints, down coats, beautifully constructed clothes, and handbags. She was awarded a package focused on entrepreneurship.
Both designers have bright futures and are people I will continue to watch, as well as Omaha Fashion Week and how it evolves, grows, and discovers new talent.
Photos courtesy of Fern Mallis and Omaha World Herald