Buf Reynolds – fashion designer

What drew you to your particular field?

It was something I always appreciated. I loved shopping, I loved looking at clothes and style and how things were worn. I remember seeing a fashion show in kindergarten, and I couldn’t look away from it; it was just the coolest thing. When I started sewing I just kept going and kept learning and kept teaching myself new things and I just really love it. It’s a nice instant gratification sort of job, it makes you appreciate making things with your hands and you can really see it come together all at once. 

What has changed most over the years in your particular field?

I realized I’m in my 20th year of making things and using my sewing machine. The thing that has changed in the industry here locally (is) there’s an actual infrastructure building in Omaha. There are people who support it, there are other designers now, there’s this whole community that wants to see you thrive. 

When I started, I had no idea anybody else wanted to do this. I had no one to reach out to, there were no sort of instructors, all there was, was quilting classes and such. Fashion wasn’t a skill set anyone was trying to teach and there wasn’t any exploration in it at all. From high school until now, it’s changed so much here locally. In the greater sense now, technology is coming in and you are able to do a lot with computers; you can design fabrics and you can design your entire patterns and everything on computers…It’s all becoming very technology-driven but there’s still something about, I don’t actually do any of those things but I know I’m still very much a hands-on person, I like to touch my fabrics and work with my fabrics on my dress form. 

Where do you turn for design inspiration?

A lot my inspiration comes from just everyday life. Things that happened to me, experiences, memories, my surroundings. I surround myself with the things that I love, with artwork and antiques and all of these things. If I’m personally drawn to it, it’s not about who’s popular or who is famous, it’s about a certain feel when you look at something or feel something, that’s what inspires me. It’s not about I want to do something based off of somebody’s…some movie or something like that. It’s like I felt this when I watching it or something like that. I felt that and that’s what I want to convey as I’m building a collection, I don’t want to build something for looks; I want to build for feeling and the value in that feeling.

Why do aesthetic qualities matter as much as practical qualities in design?

From my perspective, they’re trying to evoke a feeling or they want to make somebody feel like they’re different or they set themselves apart, it’s sort of a costume for every day. They need to be able to live their life in the garments but they need to also make it so that they can be individual in those garments. They just want to feel like they’re an individual and not just the same generic thing over and over. 

It’s always about feelings and what they’re comfortable in and some people would rather just wear the same outfit and not have to choose. Having the work taken out of it every day, that’s just great for them, like Mark Zuckerberg has one outfit he wears every day. But other people love making those choices; it’s a personal freedom for them. It’s all relative. 

What are the benefits of good design?

You want to be able to have something you feel good in; you want to have something that is well-made and you want something that pleases your eye. It has to be appealing to all of your senses. It has to be able to last and carry over into the future; it should be transcendent and carry on through time. 

What are the primary influences on design in Omaha?

Omaha is an interesting sort of mix. I see it differently than many people in Omaha but I see everything from people who would probably be judged harshly for their style because they are wearing sweats or yoga pants to go and run errands or whatever. I do that! I work from home and I do that a lot, wear yoga pants all day long. I’ll pick up the kids from school and run errands and do whatever and I don’t care because it’s about comfort and what I need to do that day.

There’s other days where I have to dress up and I have to try and look a certain way and I put on something that says, “Hey, I’m a fashion designer.” 

Fashion is so individual in Omaha, there’s not one style that you can brand Omaha with because it’s so varying amongst all of the different communities and all of the different people in West Omaha. Yes, you have your quote unquote West Omaha soccer mom who drive the minivan and wear sweats and a hoodie, but they’re not always like that. You have hipsters in Midtown who are wearing giant glasses and lots of leggings and jeans with suspenders and plaid shirts. You’ll have the people downtown who are wearing the highest-dollar name brands. You’re all over the scale in Omaha as far as fashion goes and there’s no one set style. 

What are some classic examples of good design locally?

Fashion in Omaha doesn’t go back very far. Yes, there were fashion shows in Omaha prior to Omaha Fashion Week, shows at Magic Theatre and whatever. But no big names came out of Omaha as far as fashion design labels went. 

What are some good examples of contemporary design locally?

It’s hard to draw the line between classic and contemporary because it’s all sort of contemporary at this point for something fashion-driven in Omaha. 

If Omaha had a design aesthetic, how would you define it?

A lot of people’s knee-jerk reaction here is Oh, yeah, Husker gear or something like that, but I see so much more because the people I’m with every day, I see so much variation in style…How would I label it? Individual, varying. I couldn’t put a name on it. I can’t pin it down to one look.

Where do you see Omaha’s design aesthetic going?

It’s growing, certainly, because we have this growing infrastructure of people who are so supportive of current designers. It’s definitely changing and turning into something where people are beginning to realize we have something here and we need to try and foster that community. It’s going to be growing, definitely for the next five or ten years and, you know, if we turned it into a hub I wouldn’t be mad. There would have to be a lot of work that would go into that, and time, and money and people and support. Man, it would be great if we could make Omaha a starting point for designers.

I’m very proud of where it’s going and very proud to be part of it…locally we have the fifth largest Fashion Week in the U.S. 

How do the different design disciplines interact?

I am not a traditionally trained artist or designer or anything; I couldn’t tell you. I don’t quite know how to answer.

What do you wish non-designers knew about design?

From a fashion design perspective, having somebody local make something for you, don’t assume it’s going to be really cheap. Fast fashion has ruined that for designers. Don’t assume if you have something made, it’s going to be cheap; if you want something like that, talk to your grandma.  If you come to a fashion designer to have something made, assume that you are going to pay equal if not more than if you went to a boutique and bought it. 

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