We're officially less than a week away from San Diego Comic-Con, the iconic event that celebrates the latest and greatest in geek and pop culture. The convention is home to an array of fan-favorite events — including the Her Universe Fashion Show, an annual competition presented by Her Universe and Hot Topic. In this year's fashion show, 26 designers will showcase their original geek couture designs in hopes of winning the ultimate prize — the opportunity to design a collection with Her Universe for Hot Topic. Actress, entrepreneur, and best-selling author Ashley Eckstein, who founded Her Universe and is beloved by fans as the voice of Star Wars' Ahsoka Tano, will be returning once again to host the event.
Joining Eckstein as cohost for the event will be drag icon and RuPaul's Drag Race alum Nina West. The show's panel of judges that will include 2021 winning designers Teighlor Johnson, Skyler Barrett, and Vivien Lee as well as industry experts Elena Vrska and Mallory Leveille.
The 2022 Her Universe Fashion Show will be the first time the event is held in person in three years, after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 event was held virtually. For Eckstein, that return only makes this year's show (which will be themed "Coming Home") and the larger Her Universe fandom feel even more significant and special. In anticipation of the 2022 Her Universe Fashion Show, ComicBook.com spoke with Eckstein about the experience of returning to an in-person show, what surprises are in store for attendees, Ahsoka's upcoming onscreen stories, and so much more!
ComicBook.com: First and foremost, I wanted to ask — what is it like to come back after COVID and be able to do the Her Universe Fashion Show in person again?
Ashley Eckstein: I am beyond excited to be returning in person this year with the Her Universe Fashion Show. It fits right in with our theme for the show this year, which is "Coming Home." It just feels like we're coming home, on multiple levels. San Diego Comic-Con, as you know, is the comic-con of all comic-cons. It's the Mecca of comic-con. And for fandom, it's home. As a fan, when you are at San Diego Comic-Con, it just feels like we're home. It's a safe space, and it just is a positive space. It's just fun. It's a place where you just have so much fun, and there's so much joy. So, on one hand, we're coming home to San Diego Comic-Con.
And then for the Her Universe Fashion Show, we're also coming home, because we founded our show in 2014, and San Diego Comic-Con is the only home for our show. We only do our show there. So, to be returning home in person at San Diego Comic-Con, it's just beyond exciting. I can't wait.prevnext
Is there anything that you've learned from the experience of having to do the show remotely during COVID, that you think now is useful now that it's in person again?
I think what we learned from doing it remotely is... it reminded us of what we've built. I think, like many others in 2020, we were on an emotional roller coaster. And while it was amazing that we were connected virtually, we were still isolated. Our minds can also be our worst bullies. I remember my mind during 2020, the day of when the show was supposed to be came and went, I remember thinking, "Wow, is anyone even going to miss our show? Is the show just going to be a thing that once happened and maybe it's done forever? Maybe I care about it more than other people." I remember asking myself all of these questions. And then the most beautiful gift arrived on my doorstep. It was a unity quilt — all of the designers that have participated in our show came together, and they each designed a square that became a quilt, and the square was inspired by their design. Since they couldn't do the show, they wanted to create something together. That's when I realized that our show is not about the show, and it's not even about the competition. It's about the community. Honestly, no pandemic can take that away.
And so, because of our community, because of our designers, because of our fans, we made a pledge to do our best to come back. And we did it last year virtually, and now this year in person. It's important that we keep this community alive. It's not just on Her Universe. It's also on the designers and the fans. It's important to everyone. So, I'm thrilled that we can all come back together in person and just really come home.prevnext
How did the collaboration with Nina West come about, and what can you tease about what the two of you are going to bring as co-hosts? Because it sounds like it'll be so much fun.
Yes! I am so excited to be co-hosting this year's show with my very, very, very dear friend — the icon, Nina West. We got to meet, actually, during the pandemic. We met virtually. And then I slid into Nina's DMs and asked if she would be an advocate with me for Nationwide Children's Hospital and their "On Our Sleeves" movement for children's mental health. And of course, Nina being a local hero and icon in Columbus, Ohio, which is where Nationwide Children's Hospital is, Nina said, "Of course." And so then we actually finally got to meet in person at the hospital, and we just hit it off.
I mean, truly it's like we were long lost BFFs. I like to joke that Nina is the Romy to my Michele. And so, we're already such great friends, and that's going to shine through in the show. We have some really, really fun things planned. I can't wait. I can't share our looks yet, because those are a surprise until the show, but I can promise that it's going to be fun. Being huge advocates for mental health, laughter, joy, happiness — all of those emotions are so good for your mental health, and we promise all of those things. And even tears... I think there's going to be lots of tears, but good tears, happy tears. It's really going to be a celebration that's going to be so good for our mental health, and I can't wait.prevnext
Going off of that, what are you most excited to see the audience and the fans respond to with the show?
What I'm most excited about is just everyone being together, because — not to continue to harp on it, but after what we've been through the past couple years, we've all been through a trauma, truly. The past three years... No one is untouched. It's affected us in some way. Whether it's really affected us personally, or whether it's affected someone we know, it's been a really hard three years for everyone. Being such an advocate for mental health, I am constantly working with a lot of doctors and going to lots of seminars and summits, and really trying to learn as much as I can about mental health. There is another pandemic going on right now, and it's the aftereffects of what we've been through with our mental health. As we all come out of this, one of the number one things that every one is saying, and every doctor recommends right now, is community and connection. It's so important to connect with people now.
So, I'm just excited that we get to connect in that room — from the audience, to the designers, to everyone in person. All ages. And we get to feel that electricity. We get to hug each other, we get to high five, we get to hear the applause. We get to knuckle-knock. We get to do all of those things. We get to do it again. And we get to sit next to each other.
I'm so excited, because while Zoom and connecting virtually has been the biggest blessing, and it has been our lifeline that has connected us and kept us together — it's been amazing to have that ability to connect virtually, but nothing replaces the sound of applause, nothing replaces the sound of the roar of the audience when you walk the runway. I'm just so excited for that again.
So, I think I just can't wait for people to be able to connect. It is a competition show. Yes, we are going to crown two winners at the end of the night, and that is an amazing opportunity for them, because they're going to win the chance to design a Her Universe collection for Hot Topic. So I don't want to take anything away from that, but really, every single person in that room is a winner, whether you're a designer, a model, or anyone in the audience.
And if you can't attend in person, it's also a win for everyone at home and on social media, because it's a sign that our community is strong. We're in this together, and that we're coming back, and we're doing this. We're coming together in person. We're coming home. It's just hope. It's hope for the future, and hope for what's ahead. So, I'm excited.prevnext
Before we go, I did want to ask about Ahsoka. Obviously, we have the live-action show, and we also have Tales of the Jedi that was announced at Star Wars Celebration. What are you most excited to see the upcoming Ahsoka stories explore? Because it feels like they're going to add so much to what is already such an amazing character.
I think I'm just excited for more Ahsoka, because Ahsoka is a character that is so universally loved and celebrated by everyone, and by all of Star Wars fandom. Everyone loves Ahsoka. She just represents all that is good. She represents all that is light and all that is hopeful. I'm just excited for more stories, because she means so much to people. This is a character that is changing lives and saving lives. I say that as a fact, because as the voice of Ahsoka, I am constantly out there at conventions and events and even online. Pretty much on a daily basis, I get a personal story of how Ahsoka has either changed someone's life or saved someone's life. There's very few characters that do that.
So, as with more stories with Ahsoka, that means more people are going to be introduced to her, and more people are going to go back and watch Clone Wars and watch Rebels and watch The Mandalorian and watch the new live action Ahsoka series or watch Tales of the Jedi. And she's going to touch so many more lives. That's so important, because our fandom, these stories, they change people.
I'm just honored to be a part [of it]. A member of team Tano, a member of this team, of this character that just touches so many lives. And so, I'm just excited. It's an exciting time to be an Ahsoka fan.
The 2022 Her Universe Fashion Show will kick off on Thursday, July 21 at 6 p.m. PT in the Harbor Ballroom of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, California.prev