Pictured: Last season’s Featured Designer Selection Panel (L to R) Nick Huff, Vanessa Barrett, Denise Ervin, Brett Foster, and Jenny Pool

It’s bright and early, and the Omaha Fashion Week team is buzzing with excitement (and lots of coffee) as we kick off one of our busiest days before showcases begin - OFW Rack Check! Planned down to the minute, the schedule is packed with designers presenting their final collections to ensure they’re ready to showcase in just two weeks!

Designers present to our OFW Selection Panels, who are comprised of independent industry experts who have spent the last few months mentoring and coaching two separate tracks of designers to present their best on the runway!

Emerging Designers are brand new to the OFW runway, student designers, or veteran designers trying out a completely new method of creation. Designers in this track are working to build their portfolio, develop new concepts and perfect their runway presentation.  

Featured Designers are working to promote their name and build their brand. They come in all forms, and the Selection Panel expects a clear design concept and incredibly high quality of work and thought in their application process.  

Keep reading to learn more about this season’s panelists:


Nanci Stephenson is the program coordinator and Lead Instructor of Fashion Design and Interior Design at Metropolitan Community College. Her “passion for fashion” and educational experience make her a great fit!

Nick Huff is co-owner of Hutch, an Omaha business that curates local, modern, and vintage art and furnishings, and was recently recognized nationally in Southwest: The Magazine. Nick’s entrepreneurial spirit, retail experience and eye for design brings a unique perspective to the panel!

Dan Richters is an Omaha Fashion Week veteran and two time winner of the Omaha Fashion Cup. Dan has been designing with a unique eye for most of his life and displays his work in an LA Showroom. His runway experience, design expertise and incredible creativity will push our designers to the next level!

Edelweiss Rothe Lukash has more than 20 years of experience in the retail apparel, footwear, and home industry businesses. Under her direction, brands like Chico’s, Cole Haan, Motherhood, Etam were launched for the first time in the Mexican market. Today, she facilitates the development of new brand identities and marketing, product development, and trains business leaders to integrate multicultural teams!

Grant Reid was raised in a family retail business and went on to study Interior Design, Fine Art, Fashion and Textiles, and finally completed his education at Domus Academy, Milan, Italy, gaining a Masters in Fashion. Grant has worked in the Interior Design/Retail sectors in between and currently works as a photographer/artist in Omaha!


Vanessa Barrett began her career as a window dresser before becoming Visual Director for Brandeis and Younkers. Later she went on to buy for Barrett-Reed. Vanessa is extremely passionate about fashion and design from all ends-construction to the final presentation. Her critical eye pushes our Featured Designers to be the best they can be and stand by their brand!

Dr. Barb Trout is a former professor of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design Program at UNL with a Ph.D in administration, curriculum and instruction. Her years of experience in the fashion industry and education allow her to mentor designers in many aspects.

Denise Ervin has been a fashion and costume designer for over 30 years. She was recently featured in Vogue for her Rodeo Queen attire. Denise brings an expert opinion on design and construction to the panel!

Valerie St. Pierre Smith is an award-winning costume designer, artisan and stylist with an eclectic background including stage, fashion, dance, film and themed entertainment. Her design work has been seen across the country, and her research focus on cultural appropriation and colonialism in fashion and costume design has seen her speak at a variety of institutions and conferences. Valerie is proud of her White Earth Ojibwe heritage, her USA 829 and is currently the head of costume design at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Jason Redmond has been attending Omaha Fashion Week every year since its inception. He has a passion for being part of the fashion community, so much so that he made sure to propose to his wife during an OFW Runway Finale! Coming to Omaha via Chicago, Jason landed at Offutt Air Force Base in 2006. After serving for 25 years, he retired in 2015, and has continued his civilian work on base as a Cyber Security Engineer.