Nick and Brook Hudson, Their YP Match Made in Heaven Yields a Bevy of Creative-Cultural-Style Results – from Omaha Fashion Week to La Fleur Academy to Masstige Beauty and Beyond
Every city has its dynamic young professionals who help shape or in some cases help reset the creative-cultural-style bar, and that is most definitely the case with Nick and Brook Hudson of Omaha. They are a much-admired couple who embody the having-it-all ethos in their personal and professional lives. Their contributions to Omaha’s emerging aesthetic covers fashion, beauty, social entrepreneurship, education, and night life. Nick’s Nomad Lounge became THE high-end night spot in the Old Market. The Halo Institute he co-founded with Creighton University has now been absorbed into that school’s College of Business, where Brook was the marketing director. He co-founded Omaha Fashion Week and now he and Brook together are taking it to new heights. The same holds true for Omaha Fashion Magazine. And now the couple is coalescing OFW’s support for the burgeoning Omaha fashion scene with the new Omaha Fashion Institute, which you’ll be reading more about here in the coming months. Nick also has his beauty (Masstige Beauty) and social networking (Xuba) businesses and Brook has her mentoring program/finishing school, La Fleur Academy. There are a lot of moving parts in their life and work and all their activity touches a wide range of people and organizations here and beyond. You’ll find other stories on this blog about some of the things they’re involved in, including Omaha Fashion Week, an event growing so fast that it’s gaining some regional and national attention. There’s also a profile here about Nick. I am sure to be revisiting their story again down the road as they engage in new endeavors and adventures.
©by Leo Adam Biga
A version of this article was published in Metro Magazine
As fabulous Omaha young professional couples go, Brook and Nick Hudson are stars.
The former Brook Matthews won the 2004 Miss Nebraska crown. The Blair native and University of Arkansas graduate completed her MBA in 2010 at Creighton University, where she’s marketing director in the College of Business. She was honored as the school’s graduate woman of the year and the Omaha Jaycees have named her an Outstanding Young Omahan.
She volunteers with the American Heart Association, the Omaha YMCA and Junior League of Omaha. Her passion for etiquette and self-improvement led her to launch La Fleur Academy, a mentoring program for empowering girls and young women to tap their inner beauty and potential through the social graces.
“I love to see the difference I can make when I work one-on-one with girls.” she said.” It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Advising her on La Fleur is hubby Nick, a business development and strategic marketing veteran of international beauty brand companies. He owns Nomad Lounge in the Old Market and founded Omaha Fashion Week. OFW grew out of Nomad, which doubles as cool entertainment venue and creatives hang out. Nomad showcases talent through meet-and-greets, exhibitions and performances.
The native Brit’s entrepreneurial instincts led him, in partnership with Creighton, to form the Halo Institute, a nonprofit incubator for nurturing start-up companies with a social entrepreneurship spirit. He’s now pursuing a new for-profit venture, Xuba, that seeks to leverage social networking sites with commercial opportunities.
Just as Nick consults La Fleur, Brook lends her marketing expertise to OFW and its goal to be a sustainable support system for the local design community.
Teamwork is a defining characteristic of this couple’s relationship.
“Our encouragement of each other in our endeavors really is what drives a lot of success,” said Brook. “We rely on each other, and we spend a lot of time talking and brainstorming and coming up with ideas.”
“We have really good complementary skill sets,” Nick said.
Their openness to being inspired by one another helped bring them together.
“We realized we are more than the sum of our parts, and I think that’s where we have an opportunity to make an even bigger impact in the community than we did as individuals,” said Brook. “We both feel confident we’re capable and intelligent and able to make a difference. It energizes us to be able to employ all of those talents for the betterment of our community. I think that’s what keeps us going.”
Said Nick, “Most people have different kinds of hobbies, but I think for me my hobby, my passion is I just love helping people create things and achieve things, and I think Brook and I are similar in that.” As Brook puts it, “The whole idea is building other people up and helping them achieve their dreams.”
“I’m not the best at doing certain things myself, but I’m quite good at encouraging other people to do things, and that’s just really satisfying,” said Nick.
Paying it forward is “a great reward,” said Brook, adding, “People have limitless opportunities — the only limits in life are the ones we place on ourselves — and I think Nick and I are all about helping people see past those self-imposed limits.” It’s no different than how they push each other. It’s why she calls Nick her “chief go-to mind” when she needs to run an idea by someone. He does the same with her.
“I’m learning so much from my best friend and from my soulmate because Brook is probably the best person at telling me where I need to improve and what I need to work and what I need to think about better or what can we do better,” said Nick.
“I appreciate him so much for encouraging me and my dreams — I don’t think I could do it all without him,” said Brook. “Nick’s the dreamer and I’m the realist. When I need to think bigger I call Nick and when Nick needs to be brought down to reality he calls me. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re good at giving each other tough love and encouragement when it’s needed. Not a lot of couples can communicate as openly as we do.”
A shared interest in social entrepreneurship helps.
“I think it’s just integral to the spirit of the young professional and what’s important to us. We want to be connected to something greater than ourselves and we want to collaborate to solve problems,” she said. “Omaha’s in an interesting place in its evolution because there will very soon be a big shift in power and wealth in the community and we’re all sitting back wondering, Well, who’s going to be the next Warren Buffet or next big corporate titan in Omaha? Looking around, it could be any one of us. It’s a great time to be a young professional in Omaha.”
“It’s pretty amazing what groups of young professionals are doing around Omaha — I’m really impressed,” said Nick. “I think there’s still so much more to do. I’m still just learning what the potential is and how we can do things.”
With Nomad, Halo, Fashion Week and La Fleur, the couple are actively engaged in helping people achieve their dreams.
- Living the Dream: Cinema Maven Rachel Jacobson – the Woman Behind Film Streams (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
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- Omaha Fashion Past (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Nancy Bounds, A Timeless Arbiter of Fashion Beauty, Glamour, Poise (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Art as Revolution: Brigitte McQueen’s Union for Contemporary Art Reimagines What’s Possible in North Omaha (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- The Mastercraft Revival: A Building Dedicated to Craftsmanship Finds New Life as a Creatives Den (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
The words Omaha and fashion may seem incongruous, certainly not synonomous, and no one, including this writer, would argue the fact that as a Midwest city far removed from the fashion centers of America this place is in a perpetual state of catching up with and therefore always behind trends in clothing and accessories and other aspects of style. Of course there’s always been a fashion scene and community of its own here, just as there is in any city of a certain size, and no matter how small or insignificant that fashion conscious segment may be by national industry standards it has still produced its share of highlights and notables, even if on a scaled down size. There was a time when high fashion in Omaha was catered to by a whole range of stores, shows, and figures. Then owing to several factors high fashion activity here faded away. Recently though there’s been a resurgence of interest and activity, much of it coalescing around the wildy popular Omaha Fashion Week, and the fact that this article is for an upcoming issue of Omaha Fashion Magazine is an indicator of just how far things have come around. Omaha never had a fashion week or fashion magazine before. And the same people who’ve made those things happen, Nick and Brook Hudson, now have the Omaha Fashion Institute in the works. In their own way this power couple has done for fashion in Omaha what individuals and institutions like Elaine Jabenis, Nancy Bounds, J.L. Brandeis & Sons Department Store, and the Clarkson Fashion Show did in an earlier era. There’s more to come in future issues on the fashion institute. In the meantime, think of this story as a guide to what Omaha’s Fashion Past looked like and check out my other fashion stories on the blog: a profile of fashion illustrator Mary Mitchell, who has a new book and exhibition out featuring her work; a look at Omaha Fashion Week; and profiles of past and present style mavens – Nancy Bounds and Nick and Brook Hudson.
Omaha Fashion Past
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to appear in Omaha Fashion Magazine
Just as fashion is of the times, so is the infrastructure supporting it, which is why the Omaha fashion scene once looked quite different.
It used to be fashionistas frequented multi-story fine department or apparel stores. Attentive customer service ruled the day. The same way boutiques do, box stores employed a fashion arbiter to select the latest seasonal looks in men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from the major American and European fashion centers.
The area’s penultimate arbiter was Elaine Jabenis, “Omaha’s First Lady of Fashion.” The radio-television personality and theater actress was fashion director for the pinnacle of department stores – J.L. Brandeis & Sons. She later served the same role for the Crossroads and OakView malls. Twice a year she visited New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Milan to view top designer collections.
“There was a whole way of educating the customer about what the trend was and why, and Elaine was in the forefront of that,” says designer Mary Anne Vaccaro. “She was always checking on what was in fashion.”
“We never let our customers down. People understood what we stood for and what was important,” says Jabenis, who found a happy medium between West Coast daring and East Coast sophistication to fit the Omaha market.
Always an innovator, she integrated theatrical elements into her runway shows.
“I felt all the shows I had seen were very boring. Models just walked down and somebody talked forever. It was kind of nothing. I thought there must be a better way to do this. I wanted music, dance, interesting staging. I decided to break it up into scenes and do a color story, a trend story, transition from day to night and night to day. Brandeis really loved that and the audiences loved it too.”
She went over-the-top with sets, actors, singers, musicians, celebrity guests.
“That kind of show could never be done today. You could never afford it,” she says.
As corporate fashion merchandiser she implemented themes throughout the entire Brandeis chain, extending to window displays. Models strolled through the stores. In-store fashion illustrators and copywriters carried the themes into print ads, articulating the look and feel of garments in a few strokes and well-chosen words.
Always attuned to trends, Jabenis was a pioneer in focusing on plus-sized women. “I was really a maverick,” she says. Mademoiselle and Seventeen magazines recognized Jabenis, who’s authored fashion merchandising books.
“Elaine is the crowning diva queen of all fashion ever in Omaha,” says Scott.
Other fashion forward figures made their own marks. The late modeling agency maven Nancy Bounds put on a smashing graduation show that launched international modeling careers, including Jaime King‘s.
“Nancy Bounds had a huge impact for not only opening up doors for young models but also creating a great sense of style in Omaha,” says retail consultant Wendy Chapman.
Fashion Culture, Then and Now
Upscale retailers abounded (Nebraska Clothing Co., Topps, Zoob’s, The Avenue). Stores, large and small, strutted their wares at the Clarkson Fashion Show – “THE huge fashion happening here,” says Scott. Trunk shows featured major designer lines and sometimes the designers themselves. Vaccaro met Oscar de La Renta at Brandeis. Scott recalls Michael Kors, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene and Halston all coming here.
Local designers like Vaccaro turned heads too with their custom couture works.
Though the Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation and Ball is not a fashion show per se, socialites used it as a stage to out-dazzle each other in their designer gowns.
“Everybody would wait to see who was going to wear what by these famous designers,” says Scott. “Everybody held their breath for Rosemary Daly to come from Paris. As she swept in she would have on Yves Saint Laurent and the crowd would ooh and ahh.”
The fabulous traveling Ebony Fashion Fair often stopped here, giving locals a chance to ogle the latest European and American lines.
When the Clarkson show ended after 1999, the era of big Omaha shows, with the exception of bridal wear events, ended too.
“The audiences became less and less. Fashion sort of became passe,” says Scott. “It wasn’t as prominent in people’s lives because then things were coming off the racks and fashion wasn’t just a one-of-a-kind thing for a woman. Anybody could go buy it.“
Chapman says where the emphasis was on building wardrobes of enduring high style, “I think today some of that is lost because things are more geared to disposable fashion. It’s all about getting the look and if the customer knows she’s only going to wear it four times, she doesn’t care if it’s going to fall apart.”
Many exclusive department stores, Brandeis included, disappeared. No longer, Jabenis says, did someone tailor selections to the Omaha market. The big chains, she says, “don’t buy on a personal level” but rather via “a central buying office.” The intimate connection between store and customer faded. “The human touch is gone, service is gone. It’s not at all the kind of thing it used to be, consequently the department store is losing its foothold and the specialty shop is doing much better.” Nouvelle Eve, Tilly’s and Trocadero are among Omaha’s high-end boutiques today.
Chapman says department stores “need to continue to reinvent themselves to be relevant with customers.”
Malls and national chains (Ann Taylor) featuring ready-to-wear designer brands became the new norm. The changing times made it tough on specialty shops too.
“People started going to Target and buying online what they bought in designer stores,” says Vaccaro. “In the fashion business if you go sour or you cannot sell one seasons’s collection, you’re in trouble. That’s the way it is. To outlast all the challenges coming at you you’ve got to have the strength of God practically.”
Changing Times, New Directions
“This industry has just changed so dramatically, I wouldn’t say either better or worse but just that fashion is moving much faster,”says Chapman. “Things are instantly knocked off and on the streets.”
“Today, fashion is about celebrity and it’s quick and it’s highly competitive,” says Vaccaro. “There’s not a few big name designers, there’s one celebrity designer and stylist after another.”
Vaccaro has changed with the times. She still has a design studio, but she’s mainly an image consultant these days. She says, “If you’re not willing to change then you are not a person of fashion anymore. You have to be what it is.”
Scott pines for what once was. “I miss it in the fact it was such a fantasy era,” he says.
To the delight of Scott and Co. fashion matters again in Omaha, where magazines, events and organizations support the emerging local design community.
“It’s an exciting look back and an exciting look forward with the evolution Omaha’s gone through and what’s happening now with Omaha Fashion Week,” says Chapman.
- Timeless Fashion Illustrator Mary Mitchell: Her Work Illustrating Three Decades of Style Now the Subject of a New Book and Exhibition (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Fashion Week Front Row Roll Call (stylecaster.com)