Omaha Fashion Week has fostered a youth movement in recent years, and now its surge of young talent has another place to go for training.
The fashion show organizers worked with Metropolitan Community College for the past two years to create a new major at the college, an associate degree in fashion design, which will debut this fall. As part of the partnership, Omaha Fashion Week will offer apprenticeships for students in the program.
From a business standpoint, Omaha Fashion Week co-producer Nick Hudson said the new program doesn’t benefit Fashion Week financially in the short term, since the producers donated their time to help build the program. But in the long term, he hopes it will help grow the local fashion community by producing talented, prepared professionals.
“It just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Hudson said. “The long play is that we are creating this community that is starting to get attention and respect nationwide.”
“It’s also getting people in jobs they love,” said Brook Hudson, who co-produces the show alongside Nick. “It’s helping people reach their dreams and being able to do that right here in Omaha.”
Instead of focusing on technical skills, Metro’s fashion design program will concentrate on business skills and the practical knowledge needed to enter the fashion industry.
“It’s not a how-to-sew program, it’s really an emphasis on the entrepreneurial side of it,” said Nanci Stephenson, program coordinator and lead instructor for the interior design and fashion design programs at Metro.
The program will be offered at the college’s Elkhorn Valley Campus beginning in the fall quarter, which starts in September. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is evaluating the program to determine if it will accept full or partial transfer credit, but a spokesperson said the university will definitely accept at least some of the credits. High schools with fashion programs, such as Omaha South, will offer dual credit.
The degree program requires at least 97.5 credit hours, 70.5 of which come from a pool of fashion-related classes. New fashion-specific classes include history of fashion, fashion illustration, digital design principles for fashion designers and three fashion apprenticeship courses. An elective called wearable technology was also created for the program.
A team of people engineered the new degree program, including Stephenson; the Hudsons; Tom McDonnell, vice president of academic affairs; and Daryl Hansen, dean of business and human services. By incorporating existing business, art and design courses, the number of new classes needed was relatively small.
“There’s not 15 to 20 new courses that are brand new,” Stephenson said. “The beauty of it is that we’re pulling from other areas.”
Apprenticeships during students’ second year of the program will be done through Omaha Fashion Week. Students will work with local designers and the fashion show in a variety of areas, depending on their interests. That could include helping run the shows, hemming clothes or working with online retailers.
Stephenson said students have asked for fashion design courses for years. But it was the Hudsons who approached Metro with the idea of creating a certificate or degree program.
“We’ve been cheerleaders for it,” Nick Hudson said. “We’ve had meetings once every other month for the past two and a half years.”
Stephenson said the program has no prerequisites, not even sewing skills. She hopes for a class of 15 or 20 students this fall in the first course, digital design principles, but said it would be a success with fewer, too.
“I would be thrilled if we had the max,” she said. “But I’d be happy with 10 to 15 starting out, because our classes aren’t huge.”
Students committed to full-time study should be able to complete the degree program in two years, divided among six quarters of study.
For more information on the program, visit Metropolitan Community College’s course listing at bit.ly/295ZChJ.