Friday's late show during Omaha Fashion Week will lack the electronic music, the bright lights and even the long, straight runway of the other six fashion shows this week.
It will be held in its own space, on the west end of the huge tent on Capital Avenue where the shows are taking place this week.
The late show, called Vessel, will be as much art project as fashion show, and the two designers who are producing it — OFW veterans Buf Reynolds and Dan Richters — designed every element of the set.
They wanted to create a world as unconventional as the collections they've designed. Richters' collection is made up of intricate, costume-like and often risqué dresses made from latex fabric he crafts himself. Reynolds' collection consists of romantic, well draped gowns with welded metal bodices.
Richters described both collections as dark, as well as a bit dangerous and fantastical. He and Reynolds wanted to show them in a setting that matched.
“We wanted to have control over the feel, the sound,” Reynolds said.
Both Reynolds and Richters have been involved with Omaha Fashion Week since the very beginning, and after five years of designing and showing annual collections for the event, both felt ready for a bigger challenge.
They began talking about producing their own show, one that afforded them the opportunity to design both the clothing and the atmosphere in which their collections were presented. At first, they discussed doing something separate from Omaha Fashion Week. Then they talked to OFW producer Brook Hudson, who offered them space under the Omaha Fashion Week tent if they funded the show themselves.
So they did.
Reynolds estimated that they had spent several thousand dollars of their own money on the backdrops, a custom runway, lighting, accents and other elements of the show. The music will be live. There will be a performance art aspect of the show, as well, though Richters and Reynolds don't want to give too much away.
“I want there to be a bit of unsettlement,” Richters said. “You're experiencing our collections the moment you walk in the door.”
Richters' background is in art, though he's always been exposed to design and costumes. His mother liked to sew, and he remembers accompanying her to fabric shops, where he'd pore over the books of patterns, particularly the Halloween costumes. When he was a kid, he made costumes for his action figures, and he had made a few sculptural garments over the years, which he dug out of storage and sent down the runway during the first Omaha Fashion Week in 2008. The next year, he designed a five-piece collection from pieces of CDs. After that, he developed the latex technique he's used since then.
Though Reynolds knew how to weld prior to designing this year's collection, her background is primarily in fashion and design. She and some friends had put on several fashion shows prior to the start of Omaha Fashion Week, and she sold her pieces at the now defunct Bellwether Boutique in the Old Market. After cranking out new collections year after year, Reynolds, too, was ready to stretch her creative muscles in ways she hadn't before.
For her, the process was twofold. The fabric and metal gowns she'll unveil on Friday are much more sculptural and less wearable than anything she's made before. But because she enjoys making clothing for real people, she also showed a collection of separates during Wednesday's ready-to-wear show.
On top of that, she and Richters have been busy building the Friday night set.
Photos and videos from the show will help both build their portfolios. Richters recently showed a collection at Orange County Fashion Week, after an organizer stumbled across his website. He hopes that the media from Friday's show leads to similar opportunities.
Hudson does, too.
She views Vessel as sort of a pilot project, and if it goes well, she hopes to offer other designers the space to produce their own shows, as well.
“There are some designers who are ready to have a bit more creative freedom,” she said. “If it goes well, we hope to expand it.”