I'm not sure if Ashley Eckstein is your typical baseball wife, but if she is, it makes loving baseball that much easier. Her Her Universe line of clothing and accessories launched last year at San Diego Comic Con, and in just over a year it has expanded past a few Star Wars licensed t-shirts to jewelry and underwear that includes Battlestar Galactica and new SyFy channel franchises. It was awesome to be able to interview her this year at New York Comic Con and find out just what they have in the works, and experience in person how excited Ashley is to talk about Star Wars and sci-fi in general.
After the jump we have the full interview, plus a little video clip show of the Her Universe booth in the Star Wars pavilion. Enjoy!
When we first started our podcast, one of the things we talked about was how a lot of the geeky shirts were only Men's sizes, and the cute girl shirts weren't "adult" sized enough, so the sleeves were too small.
Ashley Eckstein: I collect Alice in Wonderland stuff, and I have a couple Alice shirts that I got in the girl's section, and I have the same problem. The sleeves don't fit right, they cut you off. And boy's shirts don't fit right, either. If they fit in the chest, they're too short. It doesn't work. All of our shirts are female garments made for women. We have plus sizes and jewelry and accessories. We're expanding and this is just the beginning, so it's exciting. Selfishly, I wanted more merchandise made for women and I found out I wasn't alone.
Was that your "A-ha!" moment, when you realized there wasn't a great market for this sort of thing already?
AE: I feel like I've been a fangirl ever since I was little -- I was playing Star Wars with my brother in our living room constantly. I love sci-fi. I love fantasy. Then I was cast as Ahsoka on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I only had one Star Wars shirt, and I realized "I gotta do something about this, I need more." So I went to the internet, and to stores, and came up empty-handed. I started doing research and realized that Star Wars merchandise for women didn't really exist. There were a couple things, but they were always sold out, or on back-order.
I did more research and found out close to half of all sci-fi fans are women, and 85% of all consumer purchases are made by women. So why aren't you giving us something to buy? It just wasn't making sense. Someone needed to do something about this, and obviously through my role as Ahsoka I was able to get my foot in the door at Lucasfilm. They were so supportive, from the very beginning.
We've heard it said about the new Battlestar Galactica that it was more popular with women because the "spaceships element" was de-emphasized in promotions. Why do you think women actually like sci-fi?
AE: I've never heard that! I think that there's still this major stereotype out there that sci-fi is just for boys and men. People just accept that, and don't actually want to look in to it and realize that women are interested in a lot of the same things. Are you kidding me? I wish I could train on the Galactica and hang out! We have a new BSG pajama set coming out with the Viper symbol right on the tank top, because I just thought it was so cool and I want to be a Viper pilot. I think it's really ignorance from people that they don't take the time to do their research and realize that there's a lot to like for the women as well.
One thing I want to make clear, that I've said from the beginning: We're not trying to say that sci-fi is just for girls. We're trying to say that sci-fi is for EVERYONE. There's something to like for everyone. Me, I'm a hopeless romantic. My favorite Star Wars is The Empire Strikes Back, because that's where the girl gets her guy. But I also love the action and battle scenes.
How much of your business do you think is actually from men buying for their girlfriends and wives?
AE: That's something that actually caught me by surprise. We have a ton of men that are huge supporters of Her Universe. They're not just buying for their wives and girlfriends, they're buying for their daughters and sisters. I would say we have just as many male buyers as women, and that's been amazing. Men are so excited, they've said that they've spent so long at conventions spending money on themselves, and they finally can come to an event like this and buy something to take home to the women in their life.
Why do you think this is an important thing to have?
AE: This is important for the geek girl culture because not only are we building a merchandise line, we're trying to build a community of female fans. That's going to be the biggest thing to break down the stereotype, all of us coming together and saying "I'm a girl, and I like sci-fi." I want to be able to walk in to a store in the mall with my husband, and when he goes and finds five Star Wars shirts, I have just as many options. It's not just Her Universe that's important, things like the Girl Geek Con, Felicia Day, and sites like yours -- all of the women out there doing things and being outspoken have united us. The more we stand up as a group and say "We love sci-fi!" the more people will listen. I think that's really just as important to me as creating merchandise -- creating a strong community.