Twenty-four aspiring fashion designers debuted their original geek couture designs on the runway at San Diego Comic-Con International during the sixth annual Her Universe Fashion Show.
“We do this fashion show because there are so many talented designers who come here — we really want to give them a platform to showcase their work,” said host, actress, designer and Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein, known to Comic-Con fans as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and more.
“At its core, Comic-Con is an educational event, and it’s important that we provide up-and-coming designers with a professional opportunity in the industry,” she said.
The fashion show opened with Eckstein wearing a She-Ra-inspired transformative gown designed by 2014 winner Andrew MacLaine with custom accessories by designer Harmony Leiker. DreamWorks Animation’s “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” and Hot Topic were presenting sponsors in partnership with Cartoon Network, BoxLunch and the Pop Insider. Actress Tiffany Smith (“Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal”) joined the show as co-host with Eckstein.
Eckstein first launched the Her Universe fashion brand for female sci-fi fans at Comic-Con in 2010.
“I was so inspired by all of the fans who would use the hallways of Comic-Con as their runway to showcase their custom-made geek fashion designs. I wanted to give these fans an actual runway to walk on,” she said. “I approached the [Comic-Con] team and asked if we could produce a ‘geek couture’ fashion show straight out of Fashion Week at SDCC. Thankfully, they said yes and we launched the event in 2014. This is our sixth annual fashion show and it’s become the main event to attend on Thursday night!”
The theme for this year’s show was the “Power of Fashion,” inspired by She-Ra.
“I am a lifelong She-Ra fan,” Eckstein said, “and I was thrilled to announce that I will be voicing a character on the hit Netflix show. My experience in the studio left me extremely inspired, and I wanted to bring powerful themes, powerful characters, powerful legacies and powerful statements to our event.”
Each year, Eckstein works hard to vary the look of the fashion show.
“We try to do something different with the show every year. The changes always happen naturally and a theme usually emerges organically. We like to push the boundaries and we always try to do something we’ve never done before. We never get comfortable and we try to raise the bar every time.”
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride, Eckstein wore a custom couture pant suit designed by 2015 Her Universe winner Leetal Platt. She also unveiled a design for mental health with her On Our Sleeves-themed dress, as part of her work with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The winners were awarded the opportunity to design a fashion collection with Her Universe for pop-culture retailer Hot Topic. Cartoon Network sponsored its second Junior Designer Showcase, a competition for designers ages 6 to 17.
The juniors were also given a chance to work with Her Universe on a collection for 2020 inspired by Steven Universe for the gift retailer BoxLunch. Espionage Cosmetics also returned as the hair and makeup sponsor for this year’s fashion show.
This year’s judges picked Adria Renee as the winning designer for her “Destination: Isla Nublar” look inspired by “Jurassic Park.” The audience winner was Sarah Hambly for her “Bodak Green” look, influenced by Marvel’s Loki.
Eckstein’s couture dresses, along with the two winning dresses from the competition, will be on display throughout the weekend at Comic-Con Museum’s Batman exhibit.