April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kate Walz’s laid-back attitude serves her well in her line of work. At 16, she’s the youngest fashion designer to show at Omaha Fashion Week (a title she’s held since she was 13, as a point of interest). This past spring, she showed 27 dresses during New York Fashion Week as well. She’s also doing an independent studies course in textiles and design as a sophomore at Millard North. So. No pressure.

“She’s very chill,” says her mother, Jackie Walz. She recounts a moment from New York Fashion Week when their show was running late. “She was supposed to be the very last one, then they gave you, what, 30 minutes of warning?” Walz nods. “They were like, ‘Kate, you’re on next!’” Jackie recalls.

“I was fine with it, I guess,” Walz says. “I’m more likely to freak out if I don’t have a lot going on.”

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At New York Fashion Week, Walz showed selections from her three most recent collections: fall 2012, spring 2013, and fall 2013. She favors red and black but incorporated gray and champagne into her most recent pieces.

“I think people can go, oh yeah, that’s by Kate Walz,” Jackie says. “It’s all vintage-inspired, and the colors are so cohesive.”

Walz does always seem to turn to the 1960s for inspiration. “My last collection was inspired by New York in the ’60s,” she says. The key word here is “inspired.” “It’s not like I’m taking an exact dress from the ’60s and making it again. It’s inspired by it, more like little details and styling. Big bows on the neckline.” Her next collection is already brewing in her head, and her muses are famous ballerinas of the 1960s, such as Martha Graham and Natalie Makarova. Understandable, since Walz has studied tap, ballet, and pointe herself since she was 3.20130329_bs_9613_Web_2

You won’t find her making her own clothes, however. Really, who has time between receiving the Rotary Club of Omaha Student Excellence Award (only eight 10th graders receive it in the city) and being accepted into Millard North’s entrepreneurship program? Her own style is a mix of vintage and girly prep. “My favorite store is The Flying Worm downtown,” Walz says. “I’ve found a few cool vintage dresses there.” For her bag, she carries a Polaroid camera case from Back in Time. Given her dislike for pants and her fondness for red lipstick, Walz considers her personal style to lie somewhere between the 1950s and ’60s.

Designing collections may fall by the wayside after graduation. Walz has her eyes on either Parsons or the Fashion Institute of Technology, both in New York City. In the meantime, she’ll be continuing her trips to the Big Apple, this summer as spokesdesigner for Fashion Camp New York City.

A summer of mentoring young, future designers? It’s probably to Walz’s advantage that she’s so unflappable.

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