Interview - Ashley Eckstein (Her Universe)

Ashley Eckstein is a busy gal. If she's not fighting the clones in Cartoon Network's Clone Wars as Ahsoka she's working feverishly to get her brand new site Her Universe moving along. The site is at the forefront of providing geek inspired wardrobe for the ladies that have been yearning for it.

Ms. Eckstein was kind enough to talk to Omnicomic about her online store at NYCC and there's a ton of good nuggets of info worth reading. Check out the full interview after the jump.

Omnicomic: Did you approach Star Wars and SyFy with this idea or did they come to you about it?

Ashley Eckstein: I actually approached LucasFilms with the idea. I had the idea about four years ago and it was met with a lot of skepticism. The stereotype was that women would not buy sci-fi merchandise. I was told on several occasions that I should just be happy with a men’s size small.

I started to do my research and found that close to half of all sci-fi fans are women and that women make 85% of all consumer purchases. The numbers weren’t adding up and they weren’t giving us anything to buy. If close to half of all sci-fi fans are women and women make 85% of the purchases why aren’t we getting anything to buy?

Omnicomic: There was a disconnect.

Eckstein: Exactly. What I didn’t realize was that it was more than just designing T-shirts. I had to start my own company and do all of that and become an official licensee.

Once I did that I went through the right channels—no special treatment—that any licensee goes through. LucasFilms, I have to give them credit, were so supportive. They were the first company to really give us a shot. And, obviously, with my role as Ashoka, it made sense as my first license.

After we launched with Star Wars we were actually on a panel at Comic-Con in San Diego and one of the female executives of SyFy was also on the panel, so we got to know a couple of people from SyFy and they were extremely supportive. Plus pretty much half of their viewer audience is female—it’s pretty much dead even fifty/fifty.

They had all these female fans as well and wanted to give them something, so that’s how that deal came about. We actually have another partnership that we can’t quite announce just yet but we just got approved the other day. I’m really excited about it.

Omnicomic: When can we expect the big announcement?

Eckstein: Definitely look for the announcement I would hope before the end of the year and I would say look for product in spring of 2012. It’s a bit surreal for me because they actually found us because they had heard what we were doing and they have such a large female fanbase.

What was amazing about it was that was the number one license that all of the girls were coming to me and asking for. I didn’t have the contacts to this company and it just seemed out of reach. I thought maybe one day we could get that and it just came out of nowhere.

I’m really excited about it and I know the girls are going to be very happy.

Omnicomic: So do you have free reign with all the Star Wars and SyFy properties? Or, with Star Wars for instance, can you only do Clone Wars for example?

Eckstein: That’s the overwhelming part. From the very beginning they said you have all six movies, the Clone Wars and the expanded universe, go. I thought, are you serious? You’re giving me the entire universe to play with. It’s like a blank check.

It was definitely intimidating because where do you start. And there hasn’t been that much done for women. I kind of broke it down in smaller steps and used people or stories as inspiration.

I went to my friend, Dave Filoni, and asked him to help. I designed a shirt based on a record session with Katherine Taber and the cast and just use different stories as inspiration.

Omnicomic: Do you get feedback from George Lucas himself? I’m assuming it’s positive because you look like you’re doing very well.

Eckstein: I don’t get feedback from him directly. They have an entire licensee group and I’ve worked with some amazing people over there. Truly, they’re just so easy to work with and really just a pleasure. They’ve been so supportive it’s amazing.

Omnicomic: It seems like there’s a divide forming now where the geek culture--which has traditionally been male dominated--feels that women are encroaching on their territory. Where do you think that stems from?

Eckstein: That’s funny. One thing we’ve been very outspoken about from the very beginning is that we’re not trying to say sci-fi is for girls. We’re trying to say that sci-fi is everyone. This is definitely not a feminist movement in any way, shape or form.

It’s interesting and I don’t know why that is. Maybe, because for so long it was known as a boy’s club and maybe there are some guys still stuck on the fact that hey, this girl is playing a video game with me and she’s just as good as me.

Omnicomic: Exactly.

Eckstein: You know, I get it. But I haven’t run into that as much. I’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of support from the men. I would just say that we are saying sci-fi is for everyone and we’re not saying it’s just for girls.

Omnicomic: I do think it’s awesome what you’re doing, but you’re just seeing this cultural divide and I have no idea where it came from. You’re in an interesting position because I know it’s not a feminist thing but you’re kind of representative of that to an extent.

Eckstein: Yeah, that’s interesting. I haven’t run into it as much but I think I’m running into the guys that have been extremely supportive, but they’re coming to buy for their wives and daughters. They’re excited about it because they have women in their life that love sci-fi just as much as they do.

Omnicomic: Right now it looks like you just have T-shirts and jewelry. Are you looking to expand and get into other avenues of fashion?

Eckstein: Definitely expanding to bags, more accessories. My goal is to eventually make girls geek chic from head to toe, but I definitely prefer quality to quantity.

I went into this headfirst, thinking I could conquer the world and make everything at once and I realized that some things aren’t as easy to do as others and they just take longer. I’m not going to put something out there if it’s not well done.

I’m doing what I can right now where I can control the quality while at the same time actively exploring other products.

Omnicomic: From a broader perspective between this and doing the voiceover work was there a certain sense of awe you had to get over? It’s an international phenomenon. Was there a point where you just stopped and realized you’re part of that phenomenon?

Eckstein: Yes. I know what you mean. It truly has changed my life in ways that I didn’t realize. People warned us ahead of time and especially with Ashoka because she was a new character. They said just wait.

And we worked on the show for two years before I was even allowed to say that I was on the show. For two years I actually went to San Diego and Ashoka wasn’t announced yet and sat in on the panel. I had been working on the show for a year and a half and no one knew.

Dave Filoni, or director, said just wait and your life will change. Sure enough, the movie had been out for one week and I was getting fan mail from people throughout the world. I was getting fanmail from Germany, Japan and the US, and I feel like the fanbase has welcomed us with open arms into a family that I’ll always be a part of.

And I’m so grateful for it. I feel like a gained an army—literally a clone army of friends. It’s very humbling because I don’t feel like I deserve it but I’ll take it.

Omnicomic: Do you plan to keep doing Clone Wars?

Eckstein: Absolutely. All of this is possible because of Clone Wars. I will never forget that that’s why I’m even here with this. With Her Universe it’s a busy schedule and sometimes they’ll ask if something fits into my schedule and I’ll say don’t worry, I’ll make it fit. None of this is possible without Clone Wars and I’ll forever be grateful that. Hopefully—knock on wood—I’ll be working on it for several years to come.

Omnicomic: Not to put you on the spot, but what is your favorite Star Wars movie and favorite show on SyFy?

Eckstein: Favorite Star Wars movie is definitely Empire Strikes Back. For me, I’m a hopeless romantic and that’s where the girl gets her guy. My husband makes fun of me and I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, so of course I like the “I love you/I know” exchange. Overall, I love the entire movie.

For SyFy, it’s not currently on, but my husband and I fell in love with Battlestar Galactica. We just powered through the entire series on DVD and it’s amazing. One of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen.

Omnicomic: Exactly. Netflix Watch It Now and you just crank through all of them.

Eckstein: Yes. I’m introducing my husband to the sci-fi world. He’s an athlete and constantly watching football, baseball and everything and I knew it was a long series and said it would be great if we could do it together. I had wanted to watch it for a while and I knew we’d be designing for it and he was hooked after a couple episodes. It was something we wanted to do together and he loved it.

Omnicomic: It’s an astoundingly deep show and you wouldn’t think that based on the title.

Eckstein: You’re right. It’s kind of intimidating because it looks very sci-fi but it’s not. Anyone can understand it. I just can’t say enough good things about it. I love it.

I also love Warehouse 13. I think that’s a great show. Being Human. I just watched Paranormal Witness for the first time the other day. Freaked me out! I was terrified, in my house, by myself. I called my husband asking when he would be home! I’m always watching SyFy, even before we got the license.

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

Eckstein: We’re going to have some new products for the holidays. Look for those on the website to launch on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). Obviously, come to the website for the products but also feel free to join the mailing list.

We don’t spam! We only send out emails when we have big announcements. Since we have a big announcement coming up soon our email list is always the first to know. We send out an email about once a month but we’ve got some fun announcements coming up.

Omnicomic: Do you have any plans to move Her Universe from solely online into some brick and mortar stores?

Eckstein: Yes. That is definitely in our plans for 2012. We are actually going to be at Disney theme parks in 2012, which I’m really excited about, and we’ll be talking to some retail partners very soon.

Again, when we first launched the thought of a store picking us up was still against the odds. Most stores said that women wouldn’t buy this stuff. They’d carry a Star Wars shirt here or there but that wasn’t there focus. Now, we’re gaining interest and it’s exciting.

Omnicomic: Well we here at Omnicomic wish you the best of luck. We think it’s awesome what you’re doing and we’ll be paying attention.

Eckstein: Thank you very much!


  1. Very nice interview!! I can't wait to see the new license- I have a feeling it will be Doctor Who.

    I'm also very excited about seeing the Her Universe clothes at Disney. :-)

  2. Interesting interview..great job guys


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