Budding fashion designer Abbey Parodi is a fixture in our local Midwest fashion scene, having shown at Omaha Fashion Week and soon to show at Fashion Gala on Nov. 11, this creative fashion lover began sewing in the 2 nd grade. After a move from New York to small Elkhorn, Ne, she continued to hone her craft landing her at the University of Nebraska working her way toward a degree in fashion and apparel design. As she moves on from her Alpha Xi Delta sisters, Abbey steps out into the world and into the vast space of fashion design. I was lucky enough to catch her in between classes for a little chat about her inspiration, fashion in Omaha and her bright future.
Haute Bauble: So you are graduating in December, what's next?
Abbey Parodi: I'd like to do a couple different things, either I want to move to Chicago, or New York, or LA, and start working for a designer, I know it's like bottom of the food chain, and hopefully work my way up. I have talked to some people in Disney, and I might be working with a costume designer and moving in January, that's my other plan, moving to Orlando to work on costumes. That would be cool.
HB: That would be really cool. Have you been sending out your resume and trying to start that up now?
AB: Yes, I have actually interviewed for it this week. I had a phone interview for three different positions with the Disney company, so I'm hoping that that would work for a couple years. I would love to also do costumes. Disney has got a lot of different outlets, I could do movies, or Broadway, or park costumes, so there's a lot of fun stuff I could do with that.
HB: That would be a great experience if anything. Why don't you tell me a little bit about your current collection. I saw that you showed it in Omaha Fashion Week and now you are getting ready to show again at Fashion Gala.
Finding Fashion Inspiration
AB: Yeah, I showed eight pieces in Omaha Fashion Week, and it started in January, I had to make a three piece collection for class. A lot of time's I draw inspiration from stories instead of images or scenery. I was reading some Greek mythology and read the story of Persephone and Hades, and basically she starts out as this young princess of the world, and she's really flowery and really sweet, and then she's dragged down to the underworld to be the queen, and instead of being a victim she becomes this strong powerful ruler.
That story inspired the line, and it starts with some pink and purple rosy dresses that kind of shift into these dark black full lace ensemble outfits that show her transformation. For the show in November what I'm doing is I'm taking some of the black parts of that and some other pieces that I've worked with before, so the color scheme for Fashion Gala is going to be all black with hints of electric blue and lime green, and it's called Cosmo, and it's kind of inspired by the silhouettes of the stars. I'm taking some of the other stuff and turning it into something new and different so it will look like two completely different shows, even though they have some pieces that intermix.
HB: Cool. I just noticed that the looks seemed to resemble each other, very cool. So...I know you haven't held an official job yet, but tell me what you think the most challenging part about fashion design and/or getting into fashion?
AB: I think it's hard because fashion is honestly very subjective. The panel of judges I auditioned for, for Omaha Fashion Week, gave me positive feedback, gave me things to work on, but even if I had a different panel of six people, they could have hated everything I had. It just really depends. I would say people wanting to get in fashion, I would say you just have to back up your creations. You have to be proud, and you're going to have someone that maybe doesn't like it, but you have to be respectful and still defend your piece. It's the critique that's going to be rough sometimes, but you need to describe your pieces. It's such a popular business right now that I'm sure, it's hard to get into. Stick with your work, and believe in yourself. Follow the integrity of your designs and keep working towards it because I'm sure, you know, I'm still studying so I feel like, "Oh, I'm still a student." the real world is a little scary.
HB: On that same token, where do you see yourself in five years? Let's say you move to Orlando and do Disney, then what's next? What's your big long term goals with fashion?
AB: I think one day, way in the future, I would love to either have my own brand. I would be in charge of a design house, or I would take over as the head designer of an already established design label. That would be one route, or I do see myself, I've always wanted to work with costumes, and I could see myself doing costumes for the movies, I think that would be amazing, so being the head costume designer for a company in Hollywood or being the head designer for a fashion brand, in New York or in London or something like that. Those would be my dreams for further down the line.
HB: That would be so cool. I've done some jewelry, like when I say "done", I mean I've sold some vintage jewelry to different people that do movies, and I always feel so cool, when I see my vintage on T.V. It's happened once, but still.
Fashion in Omaha
HB: As someone who has lived in Omaha most of your life, what are your thoughts on what's happening in Omaha as far as art, the little fashion scene you see here. What do you think? Because I'm sure you, I would say you're a coastal person, you're from New York so you probably go there still pretty often. Could you compare us? What would you say?
AB: I think that we, in Omaha, are staying on top of it, trying to follow those trends, trying to make our statement here in the Midwest, which is hard to do when you have the coasts who are so ahead of the game as far as trends and designs. I was very fortunate to go to school here as opposed to a school on the coast because I have friends that went to school in New York for fashion design, and they said it was cutthroat and they were competing against each other, whereas I had an amazing time in school, I had such a huge support system, and the girls in my senior class we were all so close. We would all help each other, we weren't competing, we were all trying to get through it together. Just from that aspect it was really cool to come to school here because I feel like I got an incredible education and I know everything I need to know to go to one of those big cities, but I did it in a place where I was able actually to express who I was, and show my designs, and be rewarded for it. I'm not saying that's not the case for the cities, but just from what I've heard from some people, and in my experience I really loved it here.
I do think that Omaha is competing with huge cities. We have New York Fashion Week and Miami Fashion Week and all these huge cities that have these shows. We're starting to have really distinct runway shows here in the Midwest that are getting traction and people are hearing about them and that's really cool because, as far as the Midwest, I would say Omaha is one of the largest fashion capitals out here.
HB: I totally agree, I think we have such a cool kind of ... I don't know, we have a cool culture here. I really love east coast fashion. I feel like that's more of my jam, and we definitely some cool neighborhoods that are starting to get their own fashion identities and I just love going and seeing what people are wearing around town.
AB: I definitely have some outfits I wish I could wear here, but I'm saving for east coast because I feel that if I wear it here I'll get weird looks. The hats and the [crosstalk 00:12:32] stuff. I'm like, "Well, I should probably wait until I move to the east coast to really break this out." You know.
HB: I think it's just like any city. Even in Omaha there's definitely a place for it. In West Omaha, in Elkhorn, where your from, because I live in Elkhorn too, you would get looked at funny if you weren't wearing the norm. But if you were downtown, or in Benson.
AB: I think that would be the place to do it.
AB: When I do dress up like that it's because I'm going downtown. I try to show off.
HB: We have some fun little pockets. I just wish sometimes they would be a little bit more, I don't know, diverse in other areas.
AB: Yes, I agree.
HB: Another question. This is what I've been asking all of the participants in the Career in Fashion series. If you could invite anyone to lunch, who would it be?
AB: Could it be anyone?
HB: Anyone, like to pick their brain, whatever.
AB: I would love to sit Alexander McQueen down. If I could bring him back and just pick his brain and see the inter workings of his mind and how he came up with these incredible outfits that are made from these weird materials because I like to use weird materials, I try to draw inspiration from him a lot, and I think that that would just be the person I would sit down and just be like, "Let's just talk because I want to know what you're thinking when you make this, or what you're thinking when you sit down to start to sketch." He's the person I would bring back to talk to for lunch.
HB: I like that answer. Just to wrap up, tell me anything that you would want to tell an aspiring fashion designer. Maybe someone who's in high school, or younger, who wants to get into sewing or fashion. Anything we didn't touch on already.
AB: I would say, first off to go for it, don't be scared. I had some people in my life that questioned my decision to go to college to be a fashion designer, that weren't as supportive as I would have liked them to be. I had people in particular being like, "You won't be successful in this career." I was lucky that I had an incredible mom, my family, my sister, they all encouraged me to go for this. I know a lot of people don't have that support system, so I would say you have one life, you've got to do what you want to do with it, and you'll make it work. Then I would honestly say that I know that there are a lot of self-made designers, but I think getting an education is very important if you have the chance and the funds and the ability to go to college to do that. Just to not give up on your dream and be true to yourself. Have integrity in your designs because if you believe in your designs and feel like you have something special, someone else is going to see that too.
You may have 50 people tell you no, but it's going to take that one person to really see your designs and see your work and know you've got something special. I guess that's what I would say would be the three big things. Go for it, believe in yourself, and try to get an education if possible.
HB: That's a good tip. Do you think you'll continue to show in Omaha after you move.
AB: If I do move this January, I think I won't be able to do anything in the spring, if I stay here for a little bit longer I will definitely be applying to both Omaha Fashion Week and Fashion Gala and just continue to show my work on the Omaha runways and support Omaha's fashion scene.
HB: What do you feel, as a designer, you get out of participating in these fashion shows in Omaha? Since Omaha is not a big fashion place and these local shows are a lot of work. You guys put a lot of work into these collections, and so I just wanted to know do you feel like you get a lot out of it and is it beneficial?
AB: I really do feel that it is beneficial. I get recognition from people who wouldn't see my work. Professionals in the industry here are seeing my work. I've sold some garments, I've had people contact me to make custom things, which is beneficial financially.
HB: That's awesome.
AB: It's hard because you have all these ideas in your head and you want to design and you want to sew and you want to make these beautiful garments. Fashion Gala and Omaha Fashion Week actually give designers here in the Midwest, the opportunity to see their collections come to life on stage, in the venue, with hair and makeup, on a model, with the music and the crowd cheering. It's something that a lot of people who are sewers and designers may not get, and I think that the more runway opportunities here the better because you do put so much time and effort in something, and you do want to show it off, and you do want to see it in this grand display, and I think that the fact there are two really successful runways in Omaha help. I would do it 100 more times just because showing in Omaha is a great experience, everyone's positive and you get to show people what you can do, and that's a great feeling.
HB: That's great. Then there's someone like me who's a spectator/blogger who goes to these events, and I see some amazing designs up on the catwalk, maybe your looks aren't available to buy at Nordstroms or Saks in the next couple weeks, so I was just curious what do you take home? I know you get some exposure, but it's nice to hear that you've made some sales and that you feel like you're getting a return on your investment because not only time, but financially. You have to pay for all of the materials and stuff.
AB: That's a little scary at first when you're like, "How much is that piece of fabric? Do I really need it?"
HB: Right. I think that gets taken for granted. A lot of the people that go to these local shows are parents of models and supporters and that sort of thing, which is great, but I was just curious if the designers were getting something out of it that would help their career, so it's good to hear that that is the case.
AB: Yes I definitely feel like I'm getting something out of it. I tell people I probably spend between $100 to $200 on one outfit.
AB: People are like, "Really?" And I'm like, "You know, I could use a cheaper fabric, it's going to look bad." I could use cheaper finishes, and I could do no lining, but at the end of the day, I'd rather it look nice, and people appreciate it than people say, "Oh, that looks terrible," and save some money. It's a lot but it's good, it's worth it.
HB: Good! I am glad that all your hard work is paying off. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat!
AB: You bet! Thanks for asking me.
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