Omaha Fashion Week invites designers with Midwest roots to apply for our bi-annual shows on a "no-fee" basis.  This means designers who are selected can participate in our production at no cost beyond the creation of their collection.  OFW is going on its eighth year and now has a production budget of $350,000 annually.  This budget is made possible through the support of sponsors and ticketholders.  Given the high cost of our production, we have created a competitive process to award the most deserving designers with this opportunity.  Mentoring and feedback is a critical part of our selection process.  Below are the steps designers go through in the competitive selection process, along with the scoring rubric and selection panel description.

Selection Process

  1. Apply online at  Applications for March season open in August.  Applications for August open in February. The application period is approximately six weeks.
  2. Applicants are reviewed by the OFW production team and Selection Panel. The top applicants are invited to interview for a position in the OFW lineup.  Applicants with no online presence (i.e. website, blog, social media) are automatically disqualified from this round.  When reviewing applications, we research designers online to see photos of their work and how they represent themselves and their brand.
  3. Interviewees are expected to be prepared with the following:  2 minute opening for their interview explaining their upcoming collection; a visual representation of their proposed collection (i.e. Mood board, fabric swatches, power point, sketches); and at least one sample garment to demonstrate the quality of their craft.  Interviews are limited to 15 minutes and take place with the entire seven-person selection panel. Following each interview, designers are scored.  Those scores are tallied and averaged.  Designers are then selected into OFW based on their scores.
  4. Designers who drop out after they have been selected into shows will be subject to a $500 drop out fee.
  5. Rack Check is a scoring and live feedback session for designers about four weeks prior to show time.  Designers are required to bring their entire collection to the event for a review by the selection panel.  They receive feedback from panelists in person, and panelists score the work.  Scores from this event determine the show lineups in March and August (who receives the coveted opening and closing spots in each show). Designers who are late to this event will be automatically given a score of zero.
  6. Showtime! At this point, designers have had time to edit and style their collections and should be working on last minute items and fittings.  At OFW shows, collections are scored again. Show scores are used to determine the nightly "Top Designer" who will receive a cash prize.
  7. Finale (August only): The top ten high scorers + two additional "producers picks" from rack check are invited to participate in the OFW Finale, where they will vie for the Omaha Fashion Cup.


Designers complete an online application at  The OFW team reviews applications and invites qualifying designers to interview for positions in the OFW lineup.  Panelists score on a 1-10 scale with whole numbers only during the interview and rack check.  Scoring Guide:

  • Below Average 1 – 3
  • Average 4 – 6
  • Above Average 7 – 9
  • Perfect 10

Selection Interviews

During interviews, we are looking for potential, as quite a bit of mentoring will take place between interviews and show time. Designers are instructed to bring a sample of past work for inspection by the panel, along with at least one visual aid to help the panel understand the vision for each collection.  This visual aid could be a mood board, sketches and fabric swatches, a power point presentation, etc. Panelists will be given designer applications in advance of the interview so they can familiarize themselves with the designers’ plans. The Omaha Fashion Week Interview judging criteria and weighted score values are:

  • 20% Are the designs innovative?
  • 20% Rate the construction quality.
  • 20% Are the designs marketable to a specific audience?
  • 20% Would you invest in the potential of this designer?
  • 20% Did the designer represent themselves and their brand well?

There will be a comments section and a “needs mentoring- Y/N” at the bottom of the page as well.

Rack Check

During Rack Check, we are looking for a balance between theatrics (what will look great on the runway) and quality of construction. Designers are instructed to bring their completed collection to rack check. A garment is considered completed when it can be closed on a model without the aid of clamps or pins. An incomplete collection at Rack Check will have an adverse effect on a designer’s score that will impact their placement within weeknight shows and Finale. The Omaha Fashion Week Rack Check judging criteria and weighted score values are:

  • 30% Are the designs innovative?
  • 20% Will the collection show well on the runway?
  • 20% What is the overall construction quality like?
  • 10% Are the designs marketable to a specific audience?
  • 10% Would you invest in the potential of this designer?
  • 10% Did the designer represent themselves well?

Weeknight Show Lineup

The weeknight designer lineup and finale lineup will be determined by the rack check scores.  The top two scoring designers scheduled for each weeknight show will be placed in the most prestigious positions within the show (opening and close).

Weeknight Prizes

All designers will qualify for nightly prizes awarded during weeknight shows.  Each night, a $500 check will be awarded by SAC Federal Credit Union.  Designers will be scored on the following criteria during weeknight shows:

  • 50% Design innovation
  • 50% Overall presentation

Finale Lineup and Fashion Cup Prize

The ten top-scoring designers from Rack Check will be selected for Finale.  Show producers will select two additional designers for Finale, based on recommendations from the panel. All designers showing in the Finale are eligible for the Fashion Cup prize package.  This package is a combination of cash and in kind marketing consulting provided by SAC Federal Credit Union, OFW, Develop Model Management and Design Parliament.

Finale Ballot (applicable only to August shows):

Selection Panel will be provided with statements written by each designer explaining how the Fashion Cup will impact his or her career. Panelists will take this statement plus the overall impression of the collection on the runway into consideration when making a final determination of the winner.  Panelists must CIRCLE the name of ONE designer who should win the award.  Please wait until you have seen ALL COLLECTIONS before voting.  Show producers will collect the ballots and tally results.  Please write your name on the ballot so we can make sure we collect ALL BALLOTS.  Ballots with missing panelist names or with more than one designer circled will be thrown out. The designer with the highest number of votes will win.

In Case of a Finale Ballot Tie:

A new ballot will be circulated to the panel with the names of the tied designers.  Panelists will select the winner from the tied designers.

Selection Panel Criteria:

OFW is looking for a diverse group of seven panelists (including panel chairperson(s) and moderator) who have extensive experience in the fashion industry and bring a unique perspective to our designers. As both judge and mentor, panelists must be able to spot potential in emerging designers and provide constructive feedback during all phases of the selection process. Often, designers come out of their interactions with the panel having an even stronger, clearer understanding of what they want to create on the runway – this is a collaborative process. Here are the requirements to be an OFW selection panelist:

  • Must have applicable fashion, art or business experience.
  • Must attend a judges’ orientation prior to interviews each season.
  • Must commit to attend ALL interviews, the designer rack check in its entirety and all nights of OFW Designer Showcases. OFW will provide a set of complimentary tickets for panelists to attend the shows.
  • Must commit to the role of panelist during OFW shows; sit in designated area for OFW panelists during shows; and follow the Selection Panel Code of Conduct.
  • Panelists are invited at the discretion of OFW producers and serve for an entire season of OFW, Oct-Mar or April-Aug.