Tag Archives: fashion

The Collectible Juantiesha Christian

October 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Juantiesha Christian is a self-taught fashion designer. She does not have traditional training. She did not take any classes, and she does not hold a fashion degree. She learned her craft by feeling textiles and examining the stitching on clothes in her closet and in stores. 

The realization of her dream to become a fashion designer was based on a feeling. 

The feeling started when she was in college making costumes for her sorority pageant at Northwest Missouri State University. In 2009, she showed her first collection at Omaha Fashion Week. 

After her collection walked the runway, a woman found Christian backstage and insisted on taking home the green mohair coat Christian designed. The prospective client offered her $400 to sell it. 

Seeing people’s reactions coupled with the woman wanting to buy one of her designs gave Christian a new confidence. This was the moment she knew she was ready to go into the fashion industry. 

Local artist Nate Gurnon is a family friend of Christian’s whose artwork was incorporated into some of her designs last season. 

“I’ve know Tiesha for a long time,” he says. “I’m truly impressed with her skill, style, dedication, and willingness to push the boundaries—including my prints from Satisfaction Not Guaranteed, which are a little out of the ordinary.” 

Just as she learned to design by feeling, Christian still lets the fabric lead her when selecting materials for her collections. She doesn’t sketch. Instead, when she walks into a fabric store, she touches the different fabrics and lets the inspiration take her from there. 

Christian’s designs show the history of her growth as a designer—from her very first collection, full of muted green and white dresses; to the later vibrant, Frida Kahlo- inspired clothing, bold and floral; to her most recent work, an interpretation of what Kahlo might have worn today. It is refined, more adult than earlier pieces, while still having that colorful, statement quality that distinguishes her design aesthetic. 

Her ready-to-wear fashion label, SuShe by J. Tracey, is for women who want to stand out in a crowd. 

The brand’s name references her middle name (Tracey) and her first experience with sushi. “It was beautiful and different to me, but I assumed I was not going to like it because it was not my food ‘style,’” she says of sushi. “Once I tried it, I fell in love with it, and it’s one of my favorite foods.” 

Her mission for SuShe by J. Tracey is to create high-quality statement pieces that are affordable and that every woman will feel beautiful wearing. 

“I would love for women with different styles and body types to have at least one statement piece of mine,” Christian says. “Whether they have more of a gothic style, or more of a preppy look, or a glam look. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, even if it’s not their everyday wardrobe.” 

Christian currently resides in New York City while working full-time as a college academic adviser at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She spends the rest of her time designing new collections and creating custom orders. Her long-term goal is to design full time and eventually have her own store. 

Gurnon has no doubt she’ll be able to achieve these goals. 

“To make the move to New York from Omaha with a dream of fashion design is unheard of,” he says. “But she has a lot of support from her family and friends in Omaha. She works hard and it shows, her heart is in fashion.” 

“I want to be remembered for being a very versatile designer and knowing that fashion can be affordable and that it can be enjoyed by everybody,” Christian says. “I know some people want to be known as the all-natural designer, the cruelty-free designer, the plus- size designer, and the vintage designer. I do a little bit of everything.” 


Visit sushebyjtracey.com for more information. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Fashion Nomad

August 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the fashion world, often known for inflated egos and shameless self-promotion, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is in it for money and fame. 

Up-and-coming local fashion designer Paige Modlin isn’t buying into those ideals. And, like her clothing, it’s downright refreshing. 

In person, her demeanor is quiet. She is hesitant when speaking about herself and her sentences occasionally trail off. One look at her social media tells a different story, though. When modeling her own clothing or just hanging out with friends, her confidence in herself and her personal style is clear. 

Her style, by the way, is very street. She says she likes to focus on shape and silhouette, though color clearly plays a key role in her designs. But most importantly, she likes to make clothes that people feel comfortable in, no matter their gender. “I definitely design clothes for men and women, but that either gender could wear.” 

She adds that her personal style is “sort of all over the place.” One day, she might be feeling the sporty look, the next she may want to do super preppy. Or maybe she’s just feeling a certain color. 

“I was trying to wear all pink today, but I didn’t really have the jacket for it.”

Modlin says she got interested in fashion as a sophomore at Westside High School, from which she graduated last year. She says it’s “crazy how good the program is” there.

She says she was already interested in clothing and shopping, so she decided she “might as well try” making her own. 

Her mother, Pam Modlin, says Paige is the artsy one out of her five children. She was the one who liked to draw or wanted to play the flute. However, “It wasn’t until high school when she started sewing that she really blossomed on the art scene.”

“I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist, but ever since I started making clothes, I was over painting,” says the 19-year-old Modlin. 

She says she finds inspiration everywhere. For her clothing designs, she especially enjoys searching thrift shops, which she visits at least once a day. And of course, “definitely the internet,” specifically Instagram, where she tends to follow others interested in vintage clothing.  At first it may be difficult to see where that vintage inspiration is represented in her designs, but she says it’s usually in the color palette. “I like the bright, retro jumpsuits.”

Modlin says one of her favorite creators is Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons, which makes sense once you’ve peeped his classic yet contemporary designs. While they both emphasize the structure of a piece, Modlin’s clothing is definitely more colorful. That bit of inspiration stems from her affection for Japanese streetwear and designer Takashi Murakami. 

Her love of fashion also drives her to travel. She recently visited her father in Mexico, and before that she travelled to Europe to “self-study” fashion. She was in France and Italy during fashion week, though she didn’t get to attend the actual shows. But she says she found the street art very inspiring, although she did think the lack of color was odd. 

“All the young kids were wearing black or neutral colors, and I was wearing these bright colors. I stood out so much,” she says. “I have this picture [taken] in Rome of me wearing one of the shirts I made and everyone in the background is wearing a black coat…like I’m some crazy girl.” She adds that the people in Amsterdam were more relatable and “way nicer.” 

Next up on her travel list is Japan. “Streetwear is very big in Japan, and that’s where a lot of my inspo comes from.”

When it comes to the future, Modlin says she will continue to study fashion, and she plans on taking classes at Metropolitan Community College. “They have a lot of fun classes there,” she says. Besides fashion design, she also really enjoys photography. Graphic design is another medium she would like to get into more. Plus, she adds, it would be a good skill to have to fall back on. Not that she plans on falling. 

“I want to be able to make my own brand and sell it, and graphic design would definitely fit in with that.” But for now, where she’ll end up is a mystery. “I don’t know,” she says. “I never know!”


This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Encounter. 

See more on the designer’s instagram instagram/@__unknown.jpg

Fashion In Business Settings

April 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The worst thing I saw someone wear in a professional setting was a mini skirt with a backless blouse and tattoos showing when accepting an award,” says Gretchen Twohig, a lawyer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

Many executives would agree. Tales of skintight leggings, flip-flops, and ripped jeans appearing in a professional office abound. Some reports blame millennials while others consider the cause to be the rise of tech startup culture, but the rules are clearly not as black and white as they were in the Mad Men era.

JP Morgan formally embraced the informal trend in 2016 when they created new guidelines that took their offices from being full of suits and ties to ones that allow “Casual pants, capri pants, business-appropriate casual shirts, and polo shirts,” among other trends.

The variety even happens within industries. Nicole Seckman Jilek, a trial attorney at Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman law firm, wears a suit and pantyhose every day. If she wants to add a personal touch to her workwear, she uses accessories, especially black high-heeled pumps.

“If I’m going to be appearing in front of a judge or a jury, I’m probably going to choose a more conservative suit in a more conservative color: black, navy blue, some sort of neutral color,” she says. “But I do have a few of what I call ‘power suits’ that are emerald green and a couple of red suits. So depending on the circumstances, sometimes those red suits can project a more confident image than an all-black suit.” 

Jilek works in a setting that requires her to speak with a variety of clients.

“If I’m going to cross-examine or depose a difficult male witness, I may not want to wear certain colors because I want to come across stronger and bolder and more confident.”

Her personal preference to wear pantyhose every day doesn’t mean she finds it unprofessional if other women don’t. Jilek considers being too casually or youthfully dressed as crossing the line in a business formal setting.

Color choice can push the boundaries of acceptable business formal attire, too.

“There are certain circumstances that are the utmost professional setting, such as a jury trial, so I stay away from wearing a lot of color [in those instances],” Jilek says.

Twohig, on the other hand, works at a business casual workplace. She often wears accessories like jewelry, or brightly colored or patterned shoes.

She deems short skirts, anything with holes, or faded jeans as inappropriate for the workplace. Even dark jeans are pushing it.

Jeans, incidentally, are on the rise again, in terms of their prevalence and their waistlines. The 2018 spring fashion trends show everything from higher-waisted jeans paired with fuchsia blazers to jeans-style pants in sequined materials.

Michael Curry, a customer service training specialist and coworker of Twohig at Blue Cross Blue Shield, is known for having a playful sense of style.

Curry’s favorite way to express his personal style is with a boldly colored watch, belt, or shoes for that pop of color. He enjoys having more fashion options in a business casual environment like dressing down his outfit with a pair of white sneakers if he wants. But Curry also loves the polished look a tie can give when he needs to be at his best.

“My go-to work outfit when I need to feel confident is a cardigan over a button-up and tie with a tie clip, fitted slacks, leather band watch, eyeglass frames, and my signature fragrance,” he says. “I feel unstoppable.”

As workwear becomes more open to interpretation, the idea of acceptable fashion in business differs for each individual, and is only going to get more complicated, as millennials, who value personal expression over formality, rise to upper management and the conversations about gender identity and equal pay continue.

“Even at my office, there’s different dress codes,” Jilek says. “I wear different things depending on what I have on my calendar that day. I have a bunch of colleagues that also don’t meet with clients. They generally only see the people that we work with. So sometimes that can also justify a different look for them, but even under those situations, I always dress like I’m going to end up having a surprise important appointment or have to run down to the courthouse.”

And there’s another factor people sometimes don’t consider when hiring younger employees —those coming right out of college may not have much of a wardrobe budget.

“Early in my career, I didn’t have a lot of clothes to wear to work or the money to buy a lot of new things all at once,” says Twohig. “Now that I’ve been working for a long time, I have built a wardrobe.”

Even though Curry thinks jewelry should be minimal at work, he views a small eyebrow piercing or lip ring as still looking professional. Jilek sees fashion trends as a major influencer of what is considered acceptable business fashion.

“Ten years ago, you probably wouldn’t have seen any double-breasted jackets or suits in a store, but, in fact, I just saw a very successful, well-dressed evening news anchor wearing a double-breasted suit last week, and she looked great,” Jilek says.

Jilek, however, keeps her attention on the fact that she works in a professional setting.

“I’ve always kind of followed the mantra: dress for the job you want not the job you have,” Jilek says. “So if you want to be perceived as strong, confident, and capable—you need to dress like it.”

Nicole Seckman Jilek

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Brand R/evolution

February 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the fall of 2016, Hannah Nodskov was in her final semester at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, studying entrepreneurship and marketing. She was also having a “weird crisis,” as she calls it.

Her goal for the last three years had been to graduate and run her fashion design business, Hannah Caroline Couture, full time. Which sounds ideal, until one thing after another continued
to compound.

Ultimately, that led to the crisis she found herself in– the realization that maybe it wasn’t her dream to be a fashion designer anymore.

She says she felt burnt out. Being a 21-year-old running a fashion brand, finishing your last semester of college, and planning a wedding could have that effect on anyone.

“Pulling an all-nighter when I had a test the next day was not unusual,” she says of this time in her life. “It was a series of little moments. Every time I would agree to an order I didn’t love, it would be soul-sucking.”

The burnout prompted her decision at the time to take a hiatus from her brand to focus on her September nuptials and find a better work-life balance.

She says she constantly felt guilty for relaxing, thinking it was more important to make money than anything else. It left her feeling she was always apologizing for missing events to work.

“It’s common in entrepreneurship to get burnt out, and no one talks about it,” she says. “You just tell everybody it’s perfect all the time.”

While taking a much-needed break from her business, Nodskov stayed busy with a new job at tech startup Interface: The Web School, and planning her wedding. She was also making all the men’s bowties, bridesmaids dresses, mothers’ dresses, and her bridal gown for the big day.

She adds that wedding planning definitely affected her decision to take her fashion brand in a new direction. The idea of creating a bridal collection came to her gradually, she says.

Another defining moment on her journey of self-discovery came when she entered Max I. Walker’s Ultra Chic Boutique Dress Flip Contest in January.

Designers were tasked with taking an unwanted prom, bridesmaid, or formal dress and making it into a new dress. Nodskov says it was the first time she made something for fun in two years.

From there she knew she wanted to spend the remainder of her hiatus refining her brand’s image and core values. She says she thought a lot about what types of orders still brought her joy and remaking that prom dress came to mind.

“I want to make pieces for moments that are special and should be celebrated,” she says. “I want to focus on bridal, special occasion, and formalwear with an emphasis in plus-size and alternative bridal styles.”

The woman she designs for is a bride who wants to break all the traditional wedding expectations for what a dress should look like. A woman who is powerful or in a position of leadership. A woman who is a role models for others. A woman who wants to stand out when she enters a room. A woman who is empowered.

The woman Nodskov is in the process of becoming.

She says her next big challenge is figuring out who she is, separate from her fashion brand. She adds how much she learned about herself from her first job out of college at Interface: The Web School.

Right now, she really loves working at tech startup ScoreVision as a marketing communications specialist. She plans to enjoy it for a while and figure out the parts of her job she really likes before deciding what’s next. She adds that she does have plans to relaunch her fashion brand
after the holidays.

Nodskov is forever grateful she didn’t get accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City because that’s how she ended up at UNO studying business. She says it’s the “best decision she didn’t make on purpose.”

“I love living in Omaha,” she says. “I feel connected to the startup community here. I’m able to invite people from the fashion community to get involved because there’s so much support, and it’s so welcoming. It doesn’t matter how big your business is.”

Nodskov would love to see the fashion industry start educating designers on the technical aspects of how to grow their businesses instead of only teaching them how to design clothes.

“Having a business education makes me think differently about my fashion brand than someone coming from a design perspective,” she says. “When I design something, I’ll think, ‘that’s pretty, but how am I going to sell it?’ I’ll think about the pricing strategy and marketing that needs to go into the garment.”

Since starting her business more than six years ago, Nodskov has come to the realization that there’s only “so much you can learn about entrepreneurship sitting in a classroom. You have to experience it.”

Visit hccdesign.co for more information. 

This article published in the January/February 2018 edition of Encounter.

Kathy and Joe Italia

December 22, 2017 by and
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Kathy Italia, 67

I was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. I’ve been in the beauty industry for the past 27 years and presently work at Creative Hair Design. I am a licensed esthetician and nail technician.

In my 50s, I went back to school while still working to become an esthetician. Skin care has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. It was quite an accomplishment to train my brain to learn a new business, study, and take tests again. I love what I do and appreciate the relationship I have with many great clients whom I consider friends. I feel very grateful to work at the No. 1 salon in Omaha.

When I’m not working, I love to spend time at our lake house in the Ozarks.

My motto has always been to grab all the gusto of every day…and not to get old, but to fight it all the way! We have the choice to keep a young attitude and look our best at all times. There is no excuse not to.


Joe Italia, 69

I was born and raised in Omaha. I’ve been in the fashion industry for 42 years and presently work at Lindley’s Clothing.

After attending Benson High School and UNO, I served for four years in the United States Air Force. I am the proud father of two sons.

My family—especially my granddaughter, Lilly—brings me much happiness. Maintaining good health, playing golf, having good friends, good food, and good wine are other sources of joy in my life.

My advice for living life is to promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind, be too large for worry, too noble for anger, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

The key to growing old gracefully is to consider yourself advanced, but not old, and dress in modern fashion.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.