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Her Universe Fashion Show at SDCC On a Mission to Make Dreams Come True

Ashley Eckstein is an unabashed Disney fan from way back, and that love of Disney permeated everything at last night’s 4th annual Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con giving “geek couture” a magical night.

Right from the top of the show Eckstein, in a pre-recorded filmed segment, mentioned the fact that Disney was a part of her life from the time she was a little girl, and the biggest lesson she took away from all the stories and all the princesses was the idea that “if you dream it, you can do it.” That message was everywhere as 25 talented designers from all over the country competed for the opportunity to design a line of clothing for Her Universe and Hot Topic.

But first, DJ Amanda Jones lent the evening her awesome mixes as Her Universe showed off some of their already popular lines from this year, as well as announcing a new line coming out based on shows from the Disney Channel! The biggest hit, of course, was their Wonder Woman collection, which got the loudest applause of all Her Universe’s lines.

Fashion show judge and Senior VP of Merchandise and Marketing, Cindy Levitt, said that the Wonder Woman collection was the best-selling collection in the history of Hot Topic! As if we’re surprised.

And speaking of judges, there was a panel of professionals with the difficult task of choosing two of the three winners (the third is a winner the audience votes on) that would receive the opportunity to design for Hot Topic and Her Universe: in addition to Levitt, there were previous Her Universe Fashion Show winners Hannah Lee-Kent, Jesse Thaxton, and Camille Falciola; popular cosplayer Yaya Han; Disney Style editor Nicole Myknott, and special guest judge, actress Harley Quinn Smith, who was really endearing as she talked about the fact that, having grown up an emo girl, Hot Topic was where she did all her shopping, and it came to mean so much to her. So, for her to have the chance to help Hot Topic direct the future of its brand by helping choose the designers of its next line with Her Universe was a dream come true.

Then finally, the finalists for the Her Universe Fashion Show grand prize were finally given the floor to send their looks down the runway.

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  • Adria Renee's "The Haute of Te Fiti" (Moana)

  • Caroline Liu's "From Rags to Riches" (Cinderella)

  • Lynne Marie Martens "Enchanted Rose" (Beauty and the Beast)

  • Sam Skyler's "Wayfinder" (Moana)

  • Tanya Apuya's "Ohana Means Fashion" (Lilo & Stitch)

  • Rachel Roth's "Tano Couture" (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

  • Britley Morgan Sith "A Heart of Kyper" (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

  • Rose Ivy's "Sorceress Supreme" (Doctor Strange)

  • Judith Ann Grivich's "I. Am. Groot." (Guardians of the Galaxy)

  • Lauren Andrews' "Doctor Strange's Journey" (Doctor Strange)

  • Harmony Star Leiker's "As You Wish" (The Princess Bride)

  • Lindsay Meesak Orndorff's "Leader of the Pack" (Princess Mononoke)

  • Chatam Smith's "Justice Rains From Above!" (Overwatch)

  • Kelsey Michele's "This Was a Triumph" (Portal)

  • Candice Stephenson's "Style Never Dies" (Overwatch)

  • Ericka Angiuli's "Pure Imagination" (Willy Wonka)

  • Kristi Siedow-Thompson's "The Upside Down" (Stranger Things)

  • Hailey Jensen's "The Bathhouse" (Spirited Away)

  • Judith Armas Orellana "Nephilim: Warrior Angel" (Shadowhunters)

  • Sarah Hambly's "Annville's Revival" (Preacher)

  • Lydia Tachkov's "Princess of the Wolves" (Princess Mononoke)

  • Athena Eagar's "Here Comes the Rain" (The Matrix)

  • Rebecca Jordan's "The Diva Plavaguna" (The Fifth Element)

  • Grace Johnston's "Don't Panic" (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

So, who will have the privilege of designing Her Universe/Hot Topic’s next big line? For the first time in this show’s history, there was a tie from the judges! The winners chosen by the judges were Rose Ivy’s take on Doctor Strange and Lindsay Meesak Orndorff and her dramatic interpretation of Princess Mononoke. The Audience Winner was Grace Johnston’s “Don’t Panic,” a tribute to Hitchhiker’s Guide that reminds us of the importance of towels (and yes, her entire ensemble is made from towels!).

The Disney vibe continued to flow when it was announced that the new line the winners will be designing a Disney Princesses-themed line! Even better? They won’t only be designing apparel, but full looks. So we’ve got a whole bunch of new accessories to look forward to from Her Universe, too! And the Disney collaborations don’t stop there.

Eckstein announced that she’s working on a book for Disney! Called It’s Your Universe, it will be Eckstein’s guide to doing what she’s managed to make a whole career doing: following her dreams.

Getting to see these talented designers display their gorgeous and intriguing work was amazing, but the best thing about the Her Universe Fashion Show is that Eckstein is insistent on being inclusive. All the models, some the designers themselves, others models brought in for the show, were a variety of body types and race/ethnicities. As the show has done every year, there was a section during which cosplayers of all ages, body types, races, and abilities were called up to have their turn walking the runway and showing off their style.

Her Universe continues to stay true to its mission, not only to help make people’s dreams come true, but to work to make everyone have access to those dreams through fashion. It was an inspiring evening, and I can’t wait to see what the three winning designers come up with.

(images by the author)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.