Tag Archives: sewing

Agustin Delgado

June 12, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Agustin Delgado is humble when talking about his work, yet when you see his red-carpet-worthy designs walk the runway, you would never guess the man behind these ethereal, bold looks is quite shy.

Growing up with his great-grandmother, Victoria Hernandez, in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Delgado got his first taste for fashion at an early age. Hernandez was a seamstress who created and designed hand-sewn embroidered home goods and clothing. Her son, Delgado’s great-uncle, was a tailor. The two shared a design studio where Agustin was immersed in both womens and menswear.

At only 8 years old, Delgado left Mexico and his great-grandmother to be reunited with his parents in the United States in search of the American dream. Now 38 years old, he is a first-generation American, and for the last 16 years he’s called Omaha home.

A self-taught fashion designer, Delgado had his “aha” moment in junior high while learning how to sew in home economics. He stayed after school to get one-on-one lessons on patternmaking and fitting from his teacher, who later became his mentor.

The years between junior high and college were some of the most trying in Delgado’s life. When his family’s visa expired, the paperwork for Delgado and his siblings was lost in the immigration bureaucracy. This setback restricted the opportunities he could pursue, and ultimately led to him putting his dream on hold.

In 2014, he and his fiancee hired “an outstanding immigration attorney.” In a matter of a few weeks, his 25-year-long struggle to become a citizen finally came to an end. He’d made it. 

Fortunately, he always kept sewing as a hobby. Many friends told Delgado he had the talent to be a fashion designer. He wasn’t so sure they were right until he started taking classes at Metropolitan Community College for fashion design last year and his dream was made new again.

“Now I have all this time that I lost because of my citizenship status, and I want to do everything I wasn’t able to do,” Delgado says. “It’s never too late to try something new, follow your dreams, and try to reach them.”

This spring, Delgado took a significant step toward living his dream. He showed in, and won, Omaha Fashion Week’s Innovate Featured Designer Showcase. 

One of those friends he mentioned, Phillip McGuire, says he believes this is just the beginning for Delgado, who has made several pieces for McGuire’s drag alter ego, Phoenix Fallentino.

“His talent is endless. I think what’s so wonderful about him is he doesn’t reflect anyone, he’s truly himself,” McGuire says. “I told him after his Omaha Fashion Week runway show, his life is now changed.” 

While the win was certainly a lovely feather in his cap, Delgado considers himself more artist than fashion designer due to his love for art and for the garments he creates. Drawing inspiration from designers Alexander McQueen, Charles James, and Guo Pei, and artist Frida Kahlo, he takes his time creating hand-beaded haute couture and avant-garde pieces that simply wow.

He says he enjoys learning everything he can about previous eras and incorporates those fashion elements into his work by modernizing them to his taste and today’s society.

“The past itself is where the future is at,” Delgado says.

Since winning the showcase at Omaha Fashion Week this spring, Delgado’s confidence in his work and his voice as a designer has soared. His plans are to expand nation- and worldwide next year and eventually call Paris home.

To live amongst all the oldest fashion houses would be a natural fit for him. His great-grandmother found similar inspiration for her work after seeing Coco Chanel’s house in Paris.

“I’m a strong believer that one must understand the past to understand the future,” he says. “I got it from my great-grandma. She believed our mistakes make us the better person that we’re going to be in the future.”  

Makeup Artist: Natasha Patterson
Hair Stylist: Abigail Talkington
Set Stylist: Re’Chaun Styles
Models: Caitlyn Perman & Lena Makui


Visit amdelgado.com for more information about the designer. 

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

Queen of the Nerds

January 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Amanda Fehlner has some opinions about superheroes wearing spandex.

“You’re about to go into battle, and what are you going to put on? A spandex suit? That’s not going to help you at all. So, I made the Rogue [costume] out of leather,” says the Omaha costume designer, explaining how she constructed a bodysuit for the X-Men character.

Fehlner says it was one of her earliest forays into the increasingly popular world of cosplay.

“First of all, cosplay is just a combination of two words. It’s costume-play. So it’s really any opportunity that you as a person get to dress up as someone that you’re not, and you get to play while you’re in that [costume] and have fun with it,” she explains.

amandafehlner3Fehlner is more than a hobbyist. She’s an associate costume designer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Skills useful for her day job benefit her hobby, while the reverse is also true. For instance, a cosplayer might work with plastic to fabricate armor—techniques that translate to theater.

Cosplayers are typically spotted in places that celebrate nerd culture, such as comic book or sci-fi conventions. Fehlner explains that cosplay is similar to attending Renaissance fairs in costume or dressing in genre-inspired outfits such as goth or steampunk, but that cosplayers tend to portray specific characters in movies, comic books, cartoons, or Japanese anime.

On Facebook, where she goes by the name “Ezmeralda Von Katz,” there are photos of Fehlner’s diverse creations including an elaborate Ursula costume from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the computer game character Carmen Sandiego. Because of her theater background, Fehlner explains that she sometimes enjoys getting into character when she’s in costume, but it isn’t required.

Her passion for constructing costumes started early. While growing up in Tabor, Iowa, she learned to sew Halloween costumes to meet her exacting specifications and participated in theater at Fremont-Mills High School.

“It started with Halloween. It was my very favorite holiday, still is my very favorite holiday, but as a kid that was my big thing,” she says.

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Before heading off to study theater and anthropology at the University of South Dakota, Fehlner was cast in a Mills Masquers community theater production of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She begged them to let her make the coat.

“Of course being in theater now, I’m sure they were like, ‘Some person just wants to do this, and we don’t have to handle it. Done, done, and done!’”  Fehlner says with a laugh.

She likes a good challenge; her latest cosplay projects include an elaborate ball gown for a character from the anime series Vampire Hunter D and a hand-stitched Sally costume from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not to mention the spring productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

“I’ll be working on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I’ll get to do some fun Western stuff,” Fehlner says. “Of course, our closer is Beauty and the Beast. It’s exciting and a little terrifying at the same time.”

Fortunately for the playhouse team, Fehlner says she has already been experimenting with a Beast costume thanks to her cosplay side projects.

Visit omahaplayhouse.com for more information.

Don’t Fear the Bobbin

May 24, 2014 by

DIY is the trend that’s never going to go away. Ever seen anything on Pinterest or Etsy that made you think, I could totally do that, only to be confronted by a certain lack of skill? Sewing an A-line skirt might be something your grandmother could whip up in 30 minutes, but it’s an endeavor that’s more than a little intimidating for some.

Fortunately, Bonnie Smith is one Omaha grandmother willing to share a few of her tricks with newbies who want to overcome their sewing anxiety. As a grandmother of 12, she keeps her sewing skills sharp with lots of crafts for the kids. “Right now, I’m in a major project making quiet books for everyone,” she says. The colorful, intricate books made from fabric are pricey, time-consuming, and not at all what Smith would recommend a newcomer begin with.

Select Your First Project
Pick a project that’s realistic, which means avoiding clothing or alterations. “Something with straight seams,” Smith says. “Like a baby blanket. Or infinity scarves are super simple.” She recommends finding an online video tutorial instead of a written pattern. “There’s just something about seeing someone do the steps.” You can always upgrade to a more complex pattern, like a simple skirt, for your second attempt.

Collect Your Tools
Smith runs down the list of small tools she keeps close by during every project:

  • cutting mat
  • iron
  • pins
  • rotary cutter
  • scissors
  • seamripper
  • tape measure

For anyone trying to build a sewing kit from the ground up, Smith says to hold off on the more expensive tools and either request them as gifts or make use of the coupons that are always in ads for local hobby and fabric stores.

Choose Your First Machine
Speaking of expensive, “don’t go hog wild over a highfalutin machine,” Smith advises. “The old machines are heavy and made to last. The new ones are made out of plastic.” She suggests finding a used one to begin with—Millard Sewing refurbishes old sewing machines, for example. At minimum, Smith recommends a machine that can sew straight, zigzag, and buttonholes. “You can always upgrade.” Plan to spend under $200 for a decent machine.

Set Yourself Up For Success
Finish off all of that planning with a few extra tips from Smith, and your first sewing project is primed for success.

  • Start with any materials found around the house. Fabric can get expensive. For good-quality material, Smith recommends Country Sampler. For your first project, consider turning an old T-shirt into an infinity scarf or a baby’s headband.
  • Get familiar with your machine. “Thread it and practice on some scrap,” Smith suggests. Maintain it by keeping it oiled and take it in once a year for cleaning. Have the right needle for the fabric you’re working with. Replace the needle after several hours of sewing or whenever it seems dull.
  • Iron everything. “Prewash and dry the fabric in case of shrinkage,” Smith says. “Then you need to iron it. Every time you make a seam, you have to iron. It turns out sloppy if you don’t iron, iron, iron.”
  • Have your seamripper handy. “You’ll be ripping stuff out a lot,” Smith admits.
  • Ask the experts for help. Smith is a fan of Hancock Fabrics and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft largely because of their helpful staff of professional seamstresses.

“If you enjoy it, for sure don’t give up,” Smith encourages. “It’s so fun to get to that finished product!”

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The 
Theatrical Design of Jennifer Pool

January 24, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jennifer Pool is a tad hoarse. “I’m recovering from the football game.” She was in the stands for Ron Kellogg III’s Hail Mary pass on Nov. 2, a Husker win that will go down in history. “I must have screamed for three minutes straight.”

The mind boggles, but football just might be more important than fashion to this freelance clothing designer from Papillion. Case in point: The second time Pool showed at Omaha Fashion Week, her collection was chosen for the finale. “But they announced it the day after my sister got tickets to the Washington/Nebraska game in Seattle. So I was like, hey, cool, I’m not gonna be at the fashion show cuz I’m gonna be in Seattle at a football game.”

Nevertheless, her collection still walked that fall 2010 runway. Theater friends stood in as her wardrobe crew.

The combo of theater and fashion has been in Pool’s blood for years now. She started sewing when she was 8. “And when we played pretend,” she adds, “it was very important to me that we all knew what we looked like. We are princesses, and you are wearing this colored dress, and your hair looks like this…very important that we got that clarified right up front.”

While she was finishing her master’s in costume design at University of Georgia in 2003, some friends began an alternative theater group at Blue Barn Theatre called Witching Hour. But Pool took her expertise first to the Indiana Repertory Theater before coming back to Omaha to fall in with the group. “I started out there as a helper, worker-bee type person.” Ten years later, she’s now Witching Hour’s artistic director.

“We’re kind of nonlinear,” Pool explains. “We’re experimental. We can set up some rules and then break them as soon as we set them. It’s not like watching a sitcom. We jump in and out of narrative theater.”

Witching Hour will only have two shows this season, due to a smaller ensemble (Sineater played in December, and How to Be Better runs Fridays and Saturdays from Feb. 28 to Mar. 15 at 11 p.m.). That’s it for fully mounted productions by Witching Hour on stage at Blue Barn, but there’s still their second annual Christmas Rumpus in July.

An out-of-season holiday observation is, frankly, right up Witching Hour’s alley. “Naysayers will say we reinvent the wheel a lot,” Pool says. “But we simply start with no rules.” Consider that a note to be open-minded if you’re planning to attend a performance.

“I think the best shows are the ones you need the thickest skin for,” Pool says. It’s a frame of mind she kept while constructing her fall 2013 collection for OFW.

“This was a very Witching Hour collection,” she says. “I approached it in much the same way I approach a show. What can I push myself to explore in an unexpected way? I felt stuck, trapped. I love to do crazy, avant garde things, I design costumes for drag queens. And the last two shows I did were contemporary.” Which, the history lover admits, isn’t her favorite style to design.

Bloodied models clothed in different stages of confinement—body cages, hoop skirts, neck braces—evoked a battle for release. “It’s about the struggle,” Pool says, “the getting out. Not whether or not you end up a beautiful butterfly.”

She’s interested in continuing the story for her next OFW collection. “If the first one was about breaking free and getting loose,” Pool says, “then you’re left with a chaotic mess. And the next collection might be about how you make sense of that.”

It might also be a response to the one negative comment about her fall 2013 show that stung. “Someone said I didn’t know how to sew,” she recalls. “And looking at my collection, yeah, there was a lot of design but not a lot of technique. So I feel like the next thing I’m going to do is going to be really structural. That’s the only thing I’m interested in responding to. Because that is wrong. Yes, I can.”

Hustle and Sew

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you looked at 46-year-old Tamara Heasler, you’d probably assume that she’s a loving wife and mother who runs a cute, little boutique in the Old Market. And you’d be right. But what you might not assume is that said boutique sells sexy lingerie and adult toys. Or that Heasler had a wild past—you know, the kind of past some of us wish we could boast to our children someday because it would make us seem a little less square.

Drinking, stripping, moving across the country on a whim—Heasler’s done it. “I think it’s important to take risks,” she says. “I started taking risks at a young age.” That’s probably also why Heasler remembers her 20s as a blur. “I’m glad the liver can repair itself because I was a party animal,” she adds.

You know how people joke that it’s only a matter of time before they start stripping to pay the bills? Yeah, Heasler wasn’t joking. Her life was lacking two things—excitement and money. Where better to find both than through stripping?

It didn’t help that she also had a sister to compete with. “My sister was an exotic dancer in a Los Angeles club called The Classy Lady. My thought was if she could do it, so could I,” she says. “I guess you could say it was sibling rivalry.”

Boomers in Fremont, 20’s Showgirl in Omaha, and Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle in Council Bluffs all got a show of sexy Tamara. And no, she wasn’t embarrassed to use her real name (Yes, we’re throwing shade at you, Tasty Melons).20130430_bs_2913_Web

In the early ’90s, Heasler decided she needed a change of scenery and took off for San Antonio, Texas. “I didn’t know anyone who lived there. I just answered an ad in the paper for a roommate.” A bold decision, yes, but it was one that eventually led her to where she is today.

For three years, Heasler lived in San Antonio and bartended. “I grew tired of the bar business. It’s a trap. Once you start to live on tip money, it’s hard to get a 9-5 job and make the same kind of money.” But she couldn’t shake the nightlife.

In Dallas, Heasler found work as a house mom at a gentlemen’s club. If you’ve never heard the term, house mom is fairly similar to a woman who cares for the girls in a sorority house—except, in this case, the girls are strippers. Heasler loved being a house mom because she could work day shifts and care for anywhere between five and 20 girls who reminded her of her younger self.

“Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

“I spent lots of time in the dressing room or running errands for the girls or managers. The club paid me to work, and I received tips from the girls at the end of their shifts. The girls took good care of me [and I them].”

It was there that she stumbled upon a new business opportunity—sewing clothes for strippers. Back in her stripper days, Heasler had sewn on the side, making her own garb. It only made sense that she could help out the girls under her care.

After giving birth to her son—“I guess I did it all wrong. I was supposed to get married first, [but] that damn biological clock started ticking”—Heasler moved back to Omaha to reunite with her “stable” family. She started bartending at Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle once more, but this time, she also worked from home, making and selling clothes for local exotic dancers. In time, she had enough pieces to display her products in local strip clubs.

When she turned 35, Heasler knew it was time to get serious about her career. “I knew I couldn’t work in the bar business forever, especially because tips dwindle when you’re not a young, attractive woman anymore.”20130430_bs_2879_Web

In Dallas, she had seen many sexy clothing stores selling shoes, clothes, and lingerie. Her plan was to open a store very similar in Omaha. In 2004, she did. Basic Tease became the hot spot for local strippers, bartenders, go-go dancers, and waitresses to purchase sexy clothing. Heasler made a large percentage of the inventory, so the girls knew they had unique pieces.

As a former stripper, Heasler loved talking with the girls who came into her shop. “I always told them to have a plan,” she says. “I didn’t want them to fall into that bar-business trap. Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

After marrying her “wonderful husband,” Brian, in 2009, Heasler moved Basic Tease from its original location on 120th and Blondo to the Old Market and expanded its concept from just sexy clothing to include adult items, pole dancing classes and parties, and boudoir photography. Are you clutching your pearls yet? You don’t need to. Heasler just wants a comfortable place for women and couples to shop for their sexy needs.

“I love having the store,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to have my own retail outlet for all of my artistic projects.”