San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive: Interview with Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe
Anyone who has walked into a Hot Topic, Box Lunch, or Torrid is familiar with the power of the Her Universe brand. Spanning fandom from Star Wars to Disney and beyond, the clothing line revolutionized geek wear for the modern generation. In more recent years, Her Universe has hosted a fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con. Designers from all across the country bring their best geek looks to dazzle and inspire and possibly win a chance to collaborate on a collection with Her Universe!
Nerds and Beyond will be onsite to bring you coverage of the fashion show, which takes place this Thursday, July 18, at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. But before that, we got a chance to chat with the woman behind the fashion line, creator Ashley Eckstein.
Also known for her role voicing the tenacious Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ashley started the fandom driven clothing line to expand the options of geek wear — particularly for women. Now the choices are endless, from Marvel to Miyazaki, with designs available in all sizes. Read on for our exclusive interview:
Nerds and Beyond: So, we’ve never been to the Her Universe Fashion Show. What should we be looking forward to?
Ashley Eckstein: Oh gosh, I’m actually so excited for you that you’re coming because you can’t quite describe it until you’re there. It’s a geek couture fashion show and it is a competition. Twenty-four designers are competing to win the chance to design a collection with Her Universe for Hot Topic. The theme this year is ‘The Power of Fashion,” so the couture looks are inspired by powerful characters, themes, stories, or statements. It’s just amazing! These designers are so incredibly talented.
What’s exciting about it is that the audience actually gets involved. They get to pick a winner, and we have a panel of judges that pick winners, so it’s very interactive. It’s just electric in the room. While we bring that kind of glamour fashion week, we also seek what’s true to our core, which is fandom. We are very inclusive — that is something that’s very, very important to me and has been from day one with Her Universe. You know, that the designers and the models and everyone up there are just fans and we have all different model types. It’s really for the celebration of fandom and fashion.
Nerds and Beyond: We’re curious about your beginnings — obviously you’re a fan yourself, and you’ve been in fandom spaces for a long time. How was the transition from being a fan to being a creator?
Ashley: The two very much go hand-in-hand. I have a pretty strict rule that all of our designs, anything that we do, has to come from a fan’s point of view. And a lot of that is because, and as you mentioned, I am a fan and I know what I want. I want something to be authentic. I want something to be genuine. I want it to come from a knowledge of the property or the character.
And I would say that the biggest difference when I go to events is that it’s work versus you know, just going to hang out. But it’s still coming from the same place of just passion, genuine passion and love for these characters and properties.
Nerds and Beyond: We know you’ve launched a custom line of Disney Ears with Disney properties. Tell us about it!
Ashley: I will tell you being a massive Disney fan myself as well, it’s been a dream come true of a project. When I first got the email, I was in the middle of the meeting and I didn’t quite believe it. It was like “We want you to design some official ears for Disney.” I’m like, I had to keep refreshing to see if it was legitimately a real email! They wanted me and the Her Universe brand to design ears. I didn’t quite believe them so I designed it super quick hoping like, I don’t want them to change their minds!
I spent the whole weekend designing ears. I’m very old school. I was never formally trained in all the design computer programs. So when I designed, I literally bust out my construction paper and colored pencils. And I remember tracing out the ears and thinking, I just can’t believe this! Like, these are the official ears. So we [wanted to] obviously reflect the world I’m known for, and being the voice of Ahsoka Tano, we settled on a Star Wars theme. I debuted the Leia ears, because Princess Leia inspired me. She’s inspired me my entire life. She is the original self-rescuing princess in my book. So if given the opportunity I had to start with Leia, and there are more ears coming. I’ve been busy designing, and I’m definitely excited to share them with everyone. I hope everyone likes them as much as I do.
Nerds and Beyond: We are so excited for them! When we saw that you were doing that we thought, that’s a match made in Heaven!
Ashley: Thank you! They are limited edition, so definitely get them while you can. While they are a bit of an elevated price point, it was important to me to stay true to the Her Universe brand and still be affordable. So fans can expect them to be special.
Nerds and Beyond: Speaking of exclusives, will you be launching any at San Diego Comic-Con this year?
Ashley: So we’re not having the ears at Comic-Con, but we do have a limited edition Ahsoka Tano ring by RockLove Jewelry. They just announced a new Star Wars jewelry line. The creator and founder of RockLove, Allison Cimino, is a friend of mine, and I have been talking to her for a while about doing Star Wars jewelry. I love that community, because we really support each other. So I put it out and said if you want to do anything with Ahsoka, I’m here to help and support. So I actually got to provide feedback and input. Like, she would go off and design and come back to me and get my thoughts and notes and suggestions. It was a very collaborative process.
So there’s a limited edition Ahsoka Tano ring, and there’s only a thousand [of them]. There’s going to be some at the RockLove booth and some in the Her Universe booth and on HerUniverse.com. It will be coming with an autograph certificate, so the fans should definitely jump on that and get it well before it’s gone.
Nerds and Beyond: We here at Nerds love your designs, but are sometimes disappointed when one doesn’t come in plus size. How do you make the determination on sizing?
Ashley: So that’s a great question. And I will say something I’m very proud of is the majority of our designs now do come in plus sizes. I would say the rule is that everything should come in plus size, but there are some exceptions and that usually depends on the retailers. For example, we do a lot of work with Box Lunch. They don’t carry some plus sizes; it’s very limited. So sometimes you’ll see a line in Box Lunch and you know, it’s not in plus sizes. Or, for example, we have exclusive collections at Torrid that are only available in plus sizes. Oftentimes, it depends on the retailer and the size range that they carry. Usually it’s like Her Universe or the collections we do at Hot Topic is available in all sizes, junior sizes, and plus sizes.
But I think the biggest misconception about plus sizes is that, you know, some people think that it’s just by that. Well we have the most amazing fit team and our plus sizes are actually designed and made completely differently to fit a woman’s body. There are some designs that you can’t just size it up; it’s a completely different fit. It’s something we’re very proud of and we work very hard on and take very seriously. So there are the occasional designs that it might not have been done in plus size because it was technically looked at as a different design. But that is more the exception, and the rule is to do as much as possible in all sizes.
Nerds and Beyond: It’s really interesting to learn that it’s more on the retailer side, and as fans, we really do appreciate the size inclusivity.
Ashley: Absolutely. I will say we have so much that we’re developing with Torrid as well, so look for lots of collaboration and exciting collections to come.
Nerds and Beyond: Last question — are there any fandoms or fan spaces that you haven’t worked with yet that you’re wanting to?
Ashley: There is a major one that we are going to be debuting at the fashion show that is a long time dream of mine. I’m excited to announce it!
Nerds and Beyond will be at SDCC all weekend to bring you coverage of all the hot exclusives from Her Universe! Make sure to check us out this weekend!