A bumping Lady Gaga remix song starts to play as ten men and women of varying sizes and ages confidently strut down a catwalk dressed in elaborate garments. Spectators applaud respectfully from the sidelines as each person appears and disappears behind the curtain at the head of the catwalk. The room is lit by purple lowlights, and the decor is classy with rows of clear chairs and chandeliers hanging high in the rafters.
This is what a typical fashion show at Omaha Fashion Week looks like. This year, Omaha Fashion Week will run from Aug. 26-29 at the Omaha Design Center. The first three nights consist of fashion showcases, and the last day is a “sip and shop” event, featuring brunch, mimosas and bloody marys.
Designers and models from all over the region come to Omaha to participate in this four-day fashion extravaganza. One such person is Erika Hansen, a fashion model and Omaha Performing Arts booking and programs manager. She is coming from Sioux City to partake in Omaha Fashion Week on Friday and Saturday nights.
Hansen started modeling at 17, and she is now 47 years old and still thriving in the fashion world. When she was 18, she signed a contract with Elite Model Management, a modeling agency based out of Miami, Florida.
“At the time I really didn’t even want to model,” Hansen said. “They told me I had to quit school and not go to college. I needed to move to Miami and just focus on modeling.”
The scouts told her that she needed to make this move right away because by 25, she’d be “too old” to be a model. She decided to instead attend Briar Cliff University and slowly get out of the fashion industry. However, she got back into modeling and signed a contract with Develop Model Management in Omaha at 45 years old.
“I think it’s kinda ironic that I’m back in the fashion industry at an age the scouts thought wouldn’t be possible,” Hansen said.
Shopping for clothing now is different for Hansen than it was back in her younger modeling years. She tries to base her buying decisions on longevity instead of quantity, something she didn’t really think about at a younger age.
“I now try to look for more classic pieces that I’ll wear for multiple seasons instead of looking for something cheap that is on trend that I’ll wear for a couple months,” Hansen said. “I really try to think long term and purchase pieces I know I’ll have in my closet for multiple years.”
The fashion industry has evolved a lot over the years from an activity dominated by young, tall and skinny women to a much more inclusive present with models of every body type and clothing for every generation.
“You’ll see at Omaha Fashion Week that there is no cookie cutter model,” Hansen said. “There’s models of every skin tone and body type. I even have a cousin who will be modeling, and she just turned 40.”
You can see Hansen and other models strut their stuff wearing pieces made by local designers and University of Nebraska-Lincoln student designers from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. this week starting Thursday. Tickets are still available for purchase online and cost between $50 and $95 after fees depending on the night and section.