As Omaha Fashion Week prepares for our 10th Anniversary in fall of 2017, we are taking a moment to look back and see how it all began and grew over the years. During the next 10 months, we will be touching base with many of the talented designers who have joined us along the journey and show you what they are up to now. Each month leading up to OFW August 2017, we will look back on a different year of Omaha Fashion Week.
2008: The year Omaha Fashion Week was born
In 2008, there were a number of fashion designers in Omaha, putting on their own small shows in various venues across town. Enter Nick Hudson and Nomad Lounge with a reputation for some of the best nightlife events Omaha had to offer. Nick, whose family has a long legacy in fashion (stemming from his grandfather buying silk parachutes and turning them into garments following WWII) saw an opportunity to bring local designers together. And so, Omaha Fashion Week was born!
With the help of Dale Heise, Rachel Richards and Tom Sena among many others, 12 designers and 20 models debuted collections in front of an audience of 2,000 on Jones Street in September of 2008. And thus, a new tradition was born that put Omaha on a trajectory to become the Midwest’s fashion hub!
Designers showing collections in 2008 were Sabrina Jones, Lindsey Solomon Mohr, DOMINIKAT, Dan Richters, Threaded by Laci Neal and Kevin Steward, Buf Reynolds, Dale Heise, Autopilot Art by Alexia Thiele, Bucky’s Tulle and Dye by Katherine Pope and Reverend Steve, Amy Beck, Spano Lang by Shannon Hopp, and Julia Drazic.
Designer Highlight: Amy Beck
Amy Beck, who has since married and become Amy Quinn, designed the apron with plant pockets that graced the photo of the very first Omaha Fashion Week program in 2008. Amy returned from a craft fair in Chicago just a few days before OFW and was scrambling to finish her collection before it hit the runway. Luckily, she had the aid of her friends from the Omaha Craft Mafia (find them on Facebook @omahacraftmafia) to back her up.
At the time she signed up for Omaha Fashion Week, Amy hadn’t done much garment work since graduating from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was looking forward to a break from her norm at the time: fabric sculpture. Her brand Plaiderpillar was best known for—you guest it, plaid! Plaiderpillar featured adorable fabric animal and monster sculptures adorned with plaid accents. In addition to the creatures, Amy had created some bags and quirky boy shorts. The playfulness of Plaiderpillar carried over to collection on for OFW, with one model even carrying a plaid inflatable bouncy ball.
In the weeks prior to the show, her studio at Hot Shops Art Center (@hotshopartcenter) saw model after model for fittings. Amy, who was using some of her designs from college as part of the collection was often surprised by their height. Her baby doll dresses didn’t quite hit a length she was comfortable with—especially considering the runway was 48” off the ground! “So I designed boy shorts and tights and leg warmers to be sure they were covered up with the view from below,” Amy says.
But Amy was most worried about the quick dress competition that was part of the show. “I had to shut off my crazy left brain,” she remembers. “I had one of my Craft Mafia friends as my helper and we made a game plan which of course, did not work out. I totally crashed and bombed on the quick dress portion.”
Her fondest memories of the experience lie in the comraderie backstage. There were garments needing edits at the last minute, zippers needing to be repaired and finishing touches applied, “it was neat to see everyone come together and help each other out.”
Today Amy has taken on a different kind of chaos. Twice a week she stays home with her children, Geegee, 4 and Buster, 21 months. The other three days she is hard at work with Signs and Shapes International, a company that designs inflatable mascot costumes and structures. The company is well known for its work on several large scale balloons seen in high profile parades. Early this year Amy was tasked with a big project for the company which we can not disclose. Since taking on the project her work on Plaiderpillar has lapsed for the time being and she has done some very limited custom work. To see some of Amy’s work, including a large inflatable bow billboard for Borsheims through Signs and Shapes International, visit flickr.com/plaiderpillar.
Also check out these videos from 2008 to really get a feel for the first year of Omaha Fashion Week:
Photo Credit: Dale Heise
Model: Amelia Hummel