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Style Proud 2012

15 Mar

Last Friday was UNO’s first annual Style Proud event.  In their own words:

“Style Proud was designed to provide high school students with networking opportunities in the local fashion industry…..high school students will be able to prepare themselves for their future by networking with local designers and other career professionals. This experience will open doors that could lead students towards career paths in various areas of the fashion industry, such as: journalism, graphic design, fashion photography, modeling, tailoring, and clothing or costume design.”

There were three guest speakers, and one of them was me!  I spoke about what it means to me to be a fashion designer in Omaha.  Other than a bout of mega stagefright anxiety (and the fact that I use “lobster-claw-dance” hand gestures) it seemed to go smoothly.  As I was preparing some notes, I realized that this was my first time public speaking where I was truly just representing myself.  I wasn’t earning a grade and I wasn’t doing this for a job (technically, it IS my job to be a fashion designer, but you know what I mean).  It was just me being me.  Uhh, for the record, it’s kind of awesome to realize that most of my job description can be summed up with “just be me…..”

The universal sign for "Seriously, we should all lobster-claw-dance."

After my public speaking gig, I had a booth alongside many other fashion professionals from Omaha.  I’m a visual/tactile person, so I made a booth that would appeal to me if I was a Style Proud attendee.  It was full of things to touch, pick up and look at.  I even braved an anxiety attack and brought some sketchbooks to lay out AND let people to flip through.  I’m always so secretive with my sketchbooks, but I’m trying to get over it.   Oh, and my booth had freebies!  Free cards, free buttons, free stamps and free smiles!

My booth setup: garments, accessories and freebies!

Photography credit: Jason McClaren Photography

After I chatted with about a bazillion high school kids, everyone settled in for the competitive runway show.  Omaha North’s fashion class had designed outfits with the theme “Recycle, Redesign, Reuse.”  All of the garments were Goodwill finds transformed into runway looks.  I heart recycling.   And I got to judge the show!

Secret judges' circle: deciding the winners!

There are some big-deal things I realized that day:

1) I am not in high school anymore.  And thank goodness.

2)  THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY.  (It deserves all caps because it should be read in an ominous, doomsy voice–not because I’m shouting.)  Clearly money is tight if high schoolers are concerned about money and the future.   I was asked over and over about investment/equipment costs to start designing, schooling options, how to get ahead by networking now, etc.  These kids are smart with their money and future.  Color me impressed.  I had no sense of that sort of stuff when I was in high school.  I just wanted to draw and make stuff and go to school and be an artist and be happy.  I didn’t even have it worked out in the (obvious) order of: go to school for drawing and making stuff so I can be happy being an artist.  Kudos to Omaha kids for having a freaking clue.

3)  Dude, I’m running a business.  It’s an obvious statement, but it’s also a big-deal thing that I realized.  So, I’m standing in front of a couple hundred high school kids saying “I’m Audio Helkuik and I’m a fashion designer.” and I realize BAM! I totally AM a fashion designer.  I mean, duh, right?  But, I’m not a student and I’m not a living room hobby designer.  I’m a professional.  This is my business.  This is MY business.  I can run it my own way.  Boo-yeah.  Business.

Style Proud on the facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Style-Proud/249926191752863

Jason McClaren Photography on the facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500897754&sk=info

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