Fashion Week winner reflects on her inclusive designs and vision

Korinne Zimmerman, Omaha Fashion Week Emerging Designer
Korinne Zimmerman, Omaha Fashion Week Emerging Designer

Fashion Week winner reflects on her inclusive designs and vision

18 Sep 2017     By Kari Eller

Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design (TMFD) graduate Korinne Zimmerman took home the Emerging Designer award at Omaha Fashion Week (OFW) in August. Her career appears on an upward trajectory as she communicates to the world through her designs. Zimmerman’s passion for designing and sewing is immediately recognizable and contagious. As she spoke of the utter chaos that was OFW show day—the great American eclipse delaying her trip from Lincoln to Omaha, a model who was in a car accident, zippers breaking and frantically trying to keep up with 12 different looks on 12 different models—a big smile spread across her face and her eyes beamed. “I wish I had gotten into it sooner,” she concluded.

After a long detour involving numerous jobs that she detested, Zimmerman has finally found what she loves to do. Designing is what she thinks of, it’s what keeps her up at night and it’s the first thing she thinks of in the morning. Though sewing for eight hours on end can make her physically tired, she never gets tired of doing it and since fashion week, she has already designed her next collection and even purchased about 75 percent of the fabric.

Her winning collection for fashion week, separates with bold prints and patterns, was inspired by a pattern-mixing exercise she did in one of her TMFD classes. “The idea,” she shared, “is to grab a pair of pants, a top, a jacket and go; they all coordinate but aren’t matchy-matchy.” Zaftig Kitty, her clothing line, describes the women who wear it: classy, professional and creative, women with plus-sized figures, “but the kitty part, that’s mostly because I’m the crazy cat lady,” Zimmerman explains.

Currently, her aspirations are to fill a fashion void, designing practical, high-quality and unique pieces for a “desperately underserved market.” A single mom of three, Zimmerman wants women to have quick, look amazing, feel great options—like your favorite pair of denim jeans that you wear until they fall apart and then demand to have another pair.

“It’s not only women who are thin that can wear large stripe pants. Everyone can wear anything they want, it’s just all about a tailored fit, the correct proportions and of course, the perfect pocket placement,” Zimmerman says with a wink. “Everyone deserves to have nice clothes,” she adds; an inclusive vision, she dreams, that will one day fit women sized 2 to 30. Though she’s firmly planted roots in Nebraska, Zimmerman plans to attend a seminar in October about taking a small fashion line to production. With representatives from two different factories on hand, she hopes to gain insight into brand expansion while keeping shops small and local throughout the Midwest.

Zimmerman has lots of ideas to enhance the industry for plus-sized women. While participating in the University of Nebraska’s UCARE program, she was exposed to the use of body scanners where she learned to see body type as more than just being a pear or an apple. Throughout her time at Nebraska, Zimmerman also learned how to use apps to design and print her own custom fabric. In the future, she would like to take this knowledge one step further to print sewing patterns on the large-print material she creates. The long term goal, she says, “is to be the person who you call when you have questions about fit and to teach people how to fit the plus-size form. I would love to see more standard sizes for women like there are for men and for women’s clothing to be made in such a way that it is meant to be altered.”

Before coming to the TMFD program at Nebraska, Zimmerman was not a tech-saavy designer, and while she still enjoys pulling out a sketch pad and pencils, she now appreciates being able to work on a tablet and transfer designs to a computer with exact precision and intricate detail, seamlessly bridging practical and unique designs.

“It’s the black blazer with awesome buttons and piping or a pocket lining with a crazy pattern that no one else knows about but you,” says Zimmerman, “It’s a magical process for me. There’s just something about taking a flat piece of fabric and turning it into clothing.”

Fashion for Zimmerman is not about one designer or another, it’s about the community, and as a first-timer to Omaha Fashion Week, she couldn’t have been happier.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “People were competitive but genuinely kind and with an ‘everyone here is awesome’ attitude.” She ate lunch with Fern Mallis, creator of NY Fashion Week, connected with other fabulous designers including Demetria Geralds and Buf Reynolds and got constructive feedback on her pieces.

From one emerging designer to others, she shares a few tips: “Interview for these fashion weeks, draw more than what you want, set personal deadlines, try to be organized, and do stuff you’ve never done before. Even if you do it badly, do it anyway. It’s how you get better. Instructors offer a wealth of experience and fresh new ideas, so spend extra time with them and ask them questions because at Nebraska, you can. The department (TMFD) gives you more personalized attention, and when you work with your classmates at 2 a.m. in the studio together, you definitely feel the support.”

Whether or not she wins next year’s featured designer at Omaha Fashion Week, Zimmerman will continue to encourage her colleagues and collaborate with them in the creative process. She plans to help others along the way by participating in local fundraisers like Project Funway, an upcycling fashion competition that goes to support the empowerment of homeless women. Helping and caring about others defines Zimmerman and the Zaftig Kitty brand. As she capitalizes on what she learned in her TMFD program, and adds her own creative touch, she is making a difference in the fashion world and making her university, college and department very proud. 

College of Education and Human Sciences
Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design