After its glamorous debut in 2008, Omaha Fashion Week returned in 2009 promising a bigger and better experience. The 2nd year brought together 25 designers (double the previous year), 40 hair stylists and makeup artists, 200 models and volunteers, and a crowd of over 3000! From the program, “Omaha Fashion Week will be an exciting week-long opportunity for industry insiders, fashion lovers and creative talent to meet, network and most importantly, inspire one another. As a spectator, designer, sponsor or student, let Omaha Fashion Week show you how fashion is the latest booming artistic discipline in the Heartland.”
In 2009, OFW boasted being the 16th formal fashion week in the nation (today we rank as the 5th largest!) Omaha was the first city to make participation free to designers by using the support of the local business community in the form of sponsors. This allowed creativity to flourish and the community to play a large role in the event, directly attributing to the success Omaha Fashion Week celebrates today!
Each night included a runway show featuring local designers along with some other amazing events! The lineup:
TUESDAY- Launch Party unveiling WOW! Fashion: 50 Years of Head-Turning Designs
WEDNESDAY- Glam Style Night featuring local stylists and make-up artists, free beauty samples and don’t forget the DJ and dance floor.
THURSDAY-Boutique Night was the original version of today's OFW Pop-Up Shop Market, giving local boutiques a chance to share their store with fashion fans in one location!
FRIDAY- Celebrity Closet Fundraiser featured fashion items donated by celebrities in a silent auction and raffle to support American Heart Association and Girls Inc.
SATURDAY-Omaha Fashion Week moved outdoors for the finale runway show in a night full of glamour, live music, and fabulous design.
Designers who showed that season: Nicole Brown, SuShe by J. Tracey, Dominikat by Lee Cunningham, Yolanda Diaz, Julia Drazic, Fella, Vanice by Rasheena Jackson, Sabrina Jones, PHNX by Joi Katskee, Itchy by Claire Landolt, Jennie Mason, Elizabeth Moldenhauer, Megan Myers, Laci Neal, Mary Pattavina, Buf Reynolds, Dan Richters, Jane Round, Threaded by Kevin Steward, Lameesha Stuckey, Autopilot Art by Alexia Thiele, William Torres, Erica White, Pastel Groove House by Shamina Wiek
DESIGNER HIGHLIGHT: SuShe by J. Tracey, Juantiesha Christian
As she wrapped up her college days at Northwest Missouri State, Juantiesha was asked to design clothing for a pageant with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. She graduated the next year, 2006, with a degree in marketing and a renewed sense of direction; fashion. Fast Forward to 2009 (through the brief time she wanted to be a chiropractor) and you’ll find Juantiesha dabbling in fashion around Omaha. She started small with a couple of indie shows around town. Through the grapevine, she heard about Omaha Fashion Week (not knowing it had happened in 2008) and decided to apply. “All of the sudden I had an epiphany that fashion was something I wanted to do” Christian recalls.
Since 2009, Juantiesha has participated in several seasons of OFW, but looks back on her first year fondly. She recalls that the application was less formal, with designers bringing a garment to Nomad. Dale Heisse, who was acting as a liaison to designers, reviewed the garments and talked to designers about their ideas for a collection. “I saw the comraderie from the beginning, the whole idea of designers and artists coming together in an artistic community is the thing I loved most about Omaha Fashion Week” Christian says.
Her collection was not themed, but more a culmination of things she thought were cool. The goal was to experiment with paint and feminine touches. Her models donned muted color garments and windblown hair. The total collection was classy, feminine daywear peppered with bubble skirts and baby doll dresses. The garments featured a lot of hand painting, some with necklaces even painted directly on. Her signature look was a short, belted bubble dress that fell into a maxi when the model removed the belt. “At the time I thought it was so clever, but now I look back and say ‘eww, I can’t believe I made that!’”.
Juantiesha has fond memories of her experience that first year, “My first model walked on the runway and I just felt like I was at New York Fashion Week. I walked back to my seat and a group of people were clapping for me. I had never really experienced that before. It was so cool!” She also recalls that the early years of Omaha Fashion Week were extremely creative with designers doing a variety of different things. Juantiesha has enjoyed seeing how other designers have progressed over the years.
What Juantiesha appreciates the most from her first experience is the exposure. Following Omaha Fashion Week she was asked to participate in several smaller shows. “OFW set the platform and tone, inspiring me to dig deeper into the fashion scene and progress. It was the push I needed to get myself out there."
Today Juantiesha is living in New York with friend and fellow 2009 OFW Veteran, Lameesha Stuckey. After a seven month bout with unemployment, Juantiesha found a day job in Higher Education which she loves. When both roommates felt they were moving slow with their fashion aspirations they decided to team up in their new line THABTO (standing for two heads are better than one) which debuted at Brooklyn Fashion Week in May 2016! They still design independently, but encourage one another in the collaborative line. Be on the lookout for big things from them in 2017 including a Pop Up Shop which will feature both THABTO and SuShe by J. Tracey, alongside other designers. The Frida Kahlo inspiried collection which was debuted at August 2016 season of OFW will also be available by special order over the summer. Other success for Juantiesha include designing clothing for a specialty line of dolls her sorority sisters (@thedollmaker) sells nationally and dressing Camila Nakagawa (@CamilaMTV) who she met through an OFW connection, Anthony Gaines. Camila has been spotted in Juantiesha’s designs on national TV as well as in photo shoots!
Reflecting on OFW's progression since 2009, Juantiesha has enjoyed how the designer process has become more organized over the years. She likes how helping designers plan through the process and requiring multiple checkpoints leading up to shows. If she could change one thing about OFW today, she’d take it back to the streets. “The first year I did Omaha Fashion Week was the most invigorating experience to me. The weather was perfect and it was my first show. It was perfect. I remember everything.”
Her closing remarks to anyone keeping up with her are “Keep an eye out for me. Being a designer is fun, but its not always easy like people think. You start one collection and get excited but by the time you’re done, its already time for something else.”
You can keep track of Juantiesha through Instagram @susheandthabto or via email at email@example.com