Even at 14 years old, local designer Kate Walz is no newcomer to the runway–she showed collections in Spring and Fall 2010 on the Omaha Fashion Week stage, as well as several other events including a fundraiser for a friend in her community with breast cancer. I sat down with her a few weeks ago to ask her some questions about the path she has been on as a designer, what she has learned, and what’s next for her as she continues to challenge herself and renew her vision as a designer.
In past years, Kate has presented several collections that showed her growing range, starting from tulle skirts and moving into taffeta party dresses and long gowns, always experimenting with silhouettes and textures.
Kate and I met at Blue Line coffee in Dundee and she was accompanied by her dad and brother. Kate’s parents are her biggest supporters–every time we have a meeting or fashion week designer event, there is no shortage of encouragement from her mom and dad. I love seeing that and it makes me so optimistic for Kate’s future because nothing is more important and helpful than when your parents have faith in your passion.
Here’s a look into our conversation that day!
Meg: How is this year’s collection different from what you’ve done in the past?
Kate: Last fall I did all tutus–it was fun and girly. This year I am trying harder to edit my collections, and I’m showing ten pieces. For this fall I am doing all jewel tones. I have some reversible skirts that the models will take off with a beautiful ruched fitted dress underneath. I’m also not just doing skirts anymore. I’ll always use tulle though, because it’s lightweight and there’s so much you can do with it. And you can get it in any color.
This year I am making sure everything matches, using the same colors and fabrics. In my first show, I just used all different colors in the same tutu, the same dresses, and after the first show when I saw the pictures, I realized that I wanted the collection to be more cohesive.
M: Do you plan to pursue a career in design at this point?
K: I want to go to fashion school, and I’m excited to go to high school next year where I can take some fashion classes.
M: Have you sold any of your pieces yet?
K: I used to sell at Bellwether Boutique in the Old Market as Just Because by Kate Walz. I sold some shirts there. I make clothes for myself and my friends–like matching dresses. I did a dress with satin on the bottom that was pink, blue, and purple, with a black bodice and roses around the neckline.
M: What are you most proud of, out of all you have accomplished and learned in the last two years?
K: I’m most proud that I’m even in fashion week as the youngest designer. One of my models bought a dress-she was going to wear it in a pageant, so that was an honor.
M: How do you learn new techniques? Do you take classes?
In the past I have taken some sewing classes at the Bernina store where I made a pair of shorts and a bag–
M: –I think I took that class when I was younger too! A denim bag?
K: Yes! And we embroidered it with a machine. Mostly when I want to use a new technique, I just wing it and see what works. Sometimes I watch YouTube too. Like I learned how to gather by watching a video.
M: So has it been hard being a young designer? I mean, I can imagine that without a certain level of experience it might be hard to take charge or something.
K: Last year at Omaha Fashion Week I freaked out a little bit because my models kept leaving. But I’ve done a few shows since then and I’ve gotten more comfortable taking charge and telling the models what I need them to do.
M: Because a lot of them are the same age as you, or even older!
K: Yeah most of them are older. I’m working with some very professional ones this year.
M: Older, like sixteen. What kind of model do you typically look for to convey your brand message?
K: I’ve been using a lot of the same models–I’ve figured out my look. I want variety and diversity in models so it looks like anyone can wear the clothes. I don’t want there to be an age limit on who can wear my clothes. At my first fashion show, one of the Omaha Fashion Week organizers wore one of my tutus!
M: Besides Omaha Fashion Week, what else is coming up for you?
K: I’m doing a show in October called Sweet Couture. It’s cool because pastry chefs design chocolate hats for each dress. I was asked on Facebook to design the finale piece. One dress will even be made out of chocolate–I’m not sure how that will work.
M: What else?
K: I’d like to be a designer living in New York, and have my own store. I’d like to be able to sell my own clothes and make money doing what I love.
M: What advice do you have for other young people who want to get into designing?
K: Start out drawing and learn how to sew. Just take a class. You don’t have to design something you’re capable of sewing in the beginning, so you’re just being creative at first. Don’t let yourself be held back just because you can’t sew it. I started out drawing lots of tutus because it’s all I could sew. But now I draw more things and I’m gradually learning how to turn my sketches into pieces that work on the runway. My teacher said, you should make your clothes look expensive. Use smaller stitches, have cleaner seams, sew closer to the edge, etc.
Go see Kate’s Omaha Fashion Week show this year on Tuesday, August 23rd at 8pm. Buy tickets for the Tuesday show at the Omaha Fashion Week website! (And pick up a pair for the Thursday show too so you can see my new collection drop!)
Thanks again, Kate, for meeting with me at Blue Line and telling me more about your work. I think you’ve already made a splash here locally and I can’t wait to see you continue to come up as a new designer.