By Karen Yossman
Actors in popular franchises rarely have the opportunity to give back to their fans beyond stopping for the occasional photograph or signing merchandise. Which is what makes Ashley Eckstein, who shot to fame voicing Ahsoka Tano in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," unique. After noticing the lack of "Star Wars" apparel available for women, she founded Her Universe, a company dedicated to producing fashion for fangirls. During San Diego Comic-Con, I sat down with Ashley to find out how Her Universe started and where it’s going.
“I wanted more merchandise for me, for my own closet because I only had one "Star Wars" t-shirt that actually was made for women,” explained Ashley of the inspiration for Her Universe. “So I scoured the Internet, I went into shops and quickly realized that merchandise for fangirls didn’t exist.” Because she was already working on "The Clone Wars," Ashley “naively” thought she could talk to licensing and design some t-shirts for Lucasfilm. After realizing it wasn’t that easy, she found herself a business partner and acquired a license from Lucasfilm to produce female apparel. “I thought, you know, this will just be fun, I’ll design their "Star Wars" t-shirts for girls and it really took off from there,” says Ashley. “One license led to another then we got the SyFy channel, 'Battlestar Galactica,' and 'Warehouse 13' and then after that we got 'Doctor Who' and then 'Star Trek' and now 'The Walking Dead.'”
Her Universe is one of the leaders in a new, emerging market that treads the line between cosplay and casualwear. “We like to call it everyday cosplay, because it’s something you can wear to school or to work or just out to dinner,” says Ashley. Her run of Darth Vader, R2D2 and Dalek dresses have, in particular, been popular, allowing women to subtly show their allegiance to a franchise while defying the expectation that women who enjoy male-oriented media don’t want to look feminine. “I was coming from a standpoint of what do I want to wear,” explained Ashley, who is rocking a Dalek dress when we meet.
What else does Ashley have planned for Her Universe? “We have a new opportunity with a very classic game that we’re looking at. We definitely want to get into gaming. That’s something that I hope over the next year you’ll see more from us. Definitely some more comic book characters we’re looking into, nothing definite but that’s what we’re looking into and I would just say look for more fashion from us.” By ‘fashion’ Ashley means more items like leggings and cardigans as well as varying styles of dresses to ensure that fans of all shapes and sizes can find something to suit them.
While Ashley is a talented voice actor and smart businesswoman, it’s her passion for both the licenses and the products – her inner fangirl – that really drives Her Universe and appeals to its customers. “The same dress that I sketched on my couch 8 months ago they [the fans] are now walking around in and they’re happy with and that’s like a childhood dream of mine come true. It blows my mind, I still can’t believe it. The 10 year old in me is freaking out.
Find out more about Her Universe here.