An Exclusive Chat with Her Universe Designer, Teighlor Johnson

Her Universe

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When one thinks of San Diego Comic Con, it’s hard not to think about the Her Universe Fashion Show. With its humble beginnings in 2014, the premiere fashion show has transformed into a convention staple, bringing geek couture front and center in a way that has forever made an impact within the fashion community with plenty of glitz, glam, and creativity to spare.

Her Universe
Milestones were the focus of the 2018 Her Universe Fashion Show

Each year, the show features incredibly unique and truly impressive designs, all focused around a central empowering theme that connects to all avenues of the geek couture community. Each design connecting to fans in a one-of-a-kind way, while still remaining just as relatable as ever as they make their way across the runway.

Last year, Her Universe took to the stage in a virtual way, bringing the fashion show home through a special stream as a part of the Comic Con at Home campaign for San Diego Comic Con. One of the judges’ choice winners was Teighlor Johnson, a long time designer and geek crafter extraordinaire. Teighlor had a chance to sit down with SoCalThrills at WonderCon to tell us about her personal journey into the world of geek fashion and design. Let’s see what she had to say about her journey and where the road leads from here!

Interview with Her Universe Designer

What inspired you to work in clothing and costume design? Where did it all begin? 

Oh gosh, that’s a hard one! I’ve been sewing since I was 5 or 6. My grandma taught me how to sew in hopes of trying to get me to sit still (which did not work haha but here we are!). I didn’t really do much with it until after high school where I was like, “I want to be a nerd to everybody now”. Starting with sewing again, I decided I wanted to put my own twist into things. Then, when I first started cosplaying, the Her Universe Fashion show started. This whole concept of “Fashion, but make it nerdy!” completely blew my mind. Since then, I have been trying to make different pieces and designs that match up with that.

What were some of your early designs? How do they shape what you do now?

I’m not going to lie, I feel super cringe when I think of some of my very first designs. They were these straight fashion pieces that had these really cringey themes, one being a symphony collection that was all music notes and things like that. But when I started doing nerdy and geeky designs, I began to expand everything from wanting to hand paint pants to a Princess Monoke theme to designs based on Cora  when that came out. I would shift based on whatever my ADHD would hone in on that day, that month, or even that year. Looking back, the biggest thing I think I have progressed in my design work is thinking about what will expand beyond those 15 feet that you take on a runway. If it’s on the runway, that’s great, being a wonderful and over the top piece, but I don’t want it to just end right here. I want it to be something that can be worn over and over again for different situations. I started leaning my design sense to that and it’s worked really well as a result.

How did you discover Her Universe? 

I first heard about Her Universe when I was working at Disneyland. That was around the time the collection was starting to release in the parks and I really liked that. I could wear something beyond a fan shirt and a pair of jeans. I thought to myself, “This is so cool!”. I think one of the earliest things I saw was this vintage style Disney dress. I fell in love with it and started looking into the company. Then in 2013, I went to my very first WonderCon and I saw they had the panel set for The Her Universe Fashion Show. I was like, “What is that? It sounds super cool!” I didn’t make it for the full panel, but did manage to catch the tail end of it. I entered for the very first time and though I didn’t get in, it started this road of wanting to make nerdy themed fashion designs.

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Photos courtesy of Teighlor Johnson

Her Universe

What are your thoughts on cosplay, and how do you think it has helped shaped the design community? 

Cosplay has become a lot more prevalent than in the past. Something that a lot of people in the film and television industry have started paying closer attention to are cosplayers and their skill work. There are a lot of times where you will see something in a television show and two months later, a cosplayer will put out that costume and even do it better. They will develop the materials and find a new way to do something that will leave people in awe. Companies are starting to bring in those people as experts because they have done the footwork in their research to figure out how to create these items. When Star Trek Discovery came out, it took less than a month for someone I know to figure out how to 3D print a flexible fabric for their cosplay for the uniform design that had special Starfleet emblems on the side of the costume rather than hand sew each individual emblem onto the outfit. It’s amazing to see where cosplay has gone and I am honestly excited to see where it’s going.

When did you get the news you were accepted as a finalist for the Her Universe Fashion Show? What was your first reaction?

I was at home and not gonna lie, after seven attempts to apply, I was just happy to get a submission in. I said to myself, “You know what? I did that. Good for me!” I got the email and expected it to be another rejection email, but when I read the subject line and it said CONGRATULATIONS, I screamed. I was super excited and had submitted two designs that year. Truth be told, my Pokemon design had literally been designed the day before submissions were due. I finished it an hour before submissions closed. It just randomly came to me, and it ended up winning.

Describe meeting and working with Ashley Eckstein. What is it like getting to know her?

Oh gosh! Ashley is so cool! She is super sweet in person and very genuine. She lives in Orlando and I live in Orlando, so as a result, we have been having a lot of crossover. She’s even come to my job and I’ve done a couple of pieces for her and her friends. What stands out though is that she has created this big platform to promote mental health in the community, which I think is very important. As nerds and fandom, we face everything from feeling isolated from people because of what we like to burnout from creative endeavors to be a part of this community. She is always pushing to try and let people not only be the best fan that they can be, but be the very best person they can be. I really admire that in her.

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Ashley Eckstein prepares to take the stage!

What was the most rewarding part of being a part of the Her Universe Fashion Show?

The opportunity to design a collection has been absolutely incredible. I’ve wanted to go into apparel design for the longest time. The amount of education I’ve gotten from winning this contest, developing the right mindset, learning about creative design, to working within deadlines. It’s amazing to see how many different cogs have to move in the right way in order to get the fashion machine going. You also aren’t a solo person in any of this. There’s a whole Facebook group that helped me figure out my designs. The group has past winners that have been extremely helpful. You make friendships and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to find another way to gain experience within the fandom and community.

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Teighlor and the rest of her fellow Her Universe 2021 Fashion Show Winners!

As a Her Universe Fashion Show winner, you get the opportunity to help with a future Her Universe design collection. Can you share any details on the project and what you brought to the line? 

I am working on a Jurassic World collection and I am super excited about it. When you think of Jurassic Park, it’s classic, it’s iconic! I’ve ridden the rides in California and in Florida so many times. I’ve watched the movies. It’s multi-generational now that you have Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. If even just a little part, I get to be a part of it. It’s so crazy. We tried to design these pieces based on big moments that you see from all the movies. One of those pieces is a jacket that is inspired by the Jurassic Park Jeep. I really wanted to have something with those bright colors and have you look at it and know exactly what it is. It’s super comfy and it’s unisex too. I am super excited because everyone can wear it!

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Ashley Eckstein celebrates the reveal of the new Her Universe collaborative collection. Teighlor and her fellow designers helped create a brand new Jurassic World: Dominion themed line, releasing summer 2022.

What are you most excited for going into the fashion show this year? 

It’s the first time that the fashion show is going to be back in person and it will be my first time actually attending the show! I wasn’t ever able to make it to Comic Con to go do it. I get to see all these friends that I’ve made online and in person. We get to experience that feeling of coming together and meeting for the first time, saying “I know you. I’ve seen your work. It’s great to finally meet you!” It’s absolutely fantastic and I am super excited about that.

What advice can you give to any aspiring designers that are just starting out or looking to take their craft to the next level?

The biggest advice I can give is don’t get in your own way. Don’t give up. I tried seven years to get into this contest and then I ended up being a finalist! Even when my name was announced, my brain was already still trying to figure out designs for the next year because I was not sure I was going to win. Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t see it as you didn’t win. See it as something you learn each time…If you learned a new skill that you are able to display in your design, that’s a win in of itself. You should be really proud of yourself and your ability of what you can create.

What comes next for Teighlor Johnson? Are there any exciting projects we can look forward to in the future? 

To me, the Her Universe Fashion Show is just a taste of what I can do. I want to keep designing, keep creating. I do my chain stitch work for my own business and also do enamel pin work. Truth be told, I really want to start my own fashion brand. I kind of base it off the concept that Her Universe started. I love books. Lord of the Rings and things like that. Reading is where I started to become a fan. I loved the idea of creating a fashion brand themed around different collections of stories and books. Whether that be a Victorian collection based on Sherlock Holmes, or a Gothic Horror collection based on Edgar Allen Poe’s work. It’s still early and in the works.

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Photo courtesy of Teighlor Johnson

You can revisit Teighlor’s journey and winning design from the 2021 Her Universe Fashion show by visiting the official Her Universe Fashion Show page. You can also catch Teighlor at the 2022 Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic Con on Thursday, July 21st. We look forward to sharing more as the event comes closer. Make sure to check out our other WonderCon coverage as we get closer to the return of San Diego Comic Con!