Designer Erin Tepper featured at Omaha Fashion Week

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Erin Tepper, a 2011 graduate of Clayton Ridge High School, stands at center between eight models who debuted her clothing designs during Omaha Fashion Week in March. Tepper is a senior apparel design student at ISU and has interned in New York City at The Row, Jill Stuart, and Tory Burch. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

“Let me show you the fabric,” says Erin Tepper, a 2011 Clayton Ridge graduate who is about to finish school at Iowa State University with a degree in apparel design. She pulls a coppery brown garment from her bag. “The fabric is what started it all.”

It’s easy to see why. Reversible sequins, each held in place by a single stitch, cover the cloth like scales. From a distance the fabric appears distressed, soft, and even slightly furry. When it’s close enough to touch, that’s exactly what you feel compelled to do – flip the sequins back and forth, revealing a light side and a dark side that create organic, ever-changing patterns. 

Tepper purchased three-and-a-half yards of this fabric while interning in New York City. The unique find inspired eight outfits that debuted on the runway during Omaha Fashion Week (OFW), March 10-15. 

“Despite what many people on the coasts might expect, fashion in the Midwest is strong,” commented OFW producer Brook Hudson. “There is a very real possibility Omaha can claim to be a leading fashion hub in the Midwest.”

With two summers of New York City internships and a semester studying abroad at the London College of Fashion under her belt, Tepper is in her senior year at ISU. She’s created Ezradella, a brand she describes as edgy yet sweet and girly. Tepper has done extensive research into her target market, surveying 40 women ages 21-36 about what shapes they like and what features they prefer to showcase with their clothing. The result was a ready-to-wear collection of mix and match pieces Tepper hopes can be worn in a variety of ways for the girl who can be – and do – anything. 

Tepper returned to Guttenberg last week during her spring break and recalled the formative experiences from her education here. “I was so fortunate to get a scholarship from the Ingleside Club,” she remembers, thinking back to a presentation she gave to club members. “It was the first time I ever had to present in front of people I didn’t know, and it really prepared me for what I was about to get into.” 

She had a portfolio of artwork from school and a single garment to present to the group. “I had one dress that Diane Dickson – bless her heart – helped me make. She is the one who taught me to sew,” Tepper smiles. The dress was spray painted and made partially from trash bags, and Tepper wore it to a high school homecoming dance.

Now set to graduate from ISU in May, Tepper has studied every aspect of fashion design, from pattern making, draping, and aesthetics to merchandising, global sourcing, branding, and even entrepreneurship. She estimates that three-quarters of her time designing garments is spent with the computer, and the last fourth with fabric in hand. 

Tepper applied for OFW with the first three pieces she created using her New York find. “They loved the fabric,” she laughs. She committed to designing eight different looks for the runway and set to work ordering fabric, sewing, and even using her bathtub to dip-dye silk. 

Three other ISU students, one undergrad and two graduate students, were also selected to participate in OFW. Tepper chose eight models from a pool of men and women who competed for spots in the show. Four of those models were from an agency, and the other four, like Tepper, were beginning their careers and benefitting from the brand new experience OFW prides itself in providing to students and blooming professionals.

Tepper credits her mother, Judy, her aunt Janice Andregg, and her high school classmate Jessica Cline with providing helping hands in last-minute preparations for the show. Cline stayed backstage with Tepper during the show, organizing shoes, hanging garments, and helping models. 

Tepper plans to move to New Jersey in June and find a job in the design field near New York City. She will continue to work on Ezradella and expects to start taking orders on her website, ezradella.com (currently under construction) in late May. For more information, email info@ezradella.com.

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