Photo by Vanessa Thomas Photography

by Molly Chapple

4-H member Emily Pillard was recently a finalist in the National 4-H Joann Fabric Fashion Contest. Pillard, a 19-year-old from Lincoln, has been a part of the sewing programs in 4-H since she was 7, and now owns her own fashion design business. She also showed livestock such as cows, chickens, pigs and sheep throughout her time as a 4-H’er.

Pillard began sewing when she was just 6 years old. She learned the trade from her grandma, who is still her mentor to this day. She can still recall receiving her first 4-H sewing award.

“In my first ever 4-H fashion competition I won second place out of all the ‘big kids,’” she said. “That was a big deal to me so I started getting really into it.”

Pillard’s work has received numerous awards, including Lancaster County Grand Champion 4-H Sewer, Grand Champion in the Upcycle category, and recently had the honor of her garments being displayed in the Robert Hillestad Gallery at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

After winning several sewing awards in Lancaster County 4-H competitions and fashion shows, and making various appearances at the State Fair, she was inspired to pursue a career in fashion design and textiles at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Pillard is currently a freshman in the program, and says she owes much of her success to her beginnings in 4-H.

“4-H taught me how important different aspects of sewing are,” she said. “I want to sew garments for teen girls and make a living out of it.”

In addition to school, Pillard also stays busy managing her own business, called Em’s Trends. The business, active since 2016, began when Pillard made custom prom dresses for highschool clients. The motto of the business is “Helping young women feel confident and beautiful.”

In April 2017, Pillard applied to be part of Omaha Fashion Week, where she was chosen to debut her first ever collection. Since then, her work has been featured in six different fashion shows through Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

After graduation, Pillard plans to focus on her business and one day own her own corporate business, distributing her designs across the world.

“I want to also contribute to the rise of Lincoln’s growing business population and support other people who want to get into the fashion industry right here in Nebraska,” she said. “My dream is my future and someday it will become a reality.”

To see some of Pillard’s work, check out her website at