Ale Bodden wrote from New York Comic Con 2017:
As a woman with a growing interest in geek fashion, I had to make it to this year's Business of Geek Fashion panel at New York Comic Con 2017. The ladies in attendance are the reason why my closet and drawers now have dresses, shirts, shoes, accessories, and cosmetics that I truly like and feel comfortable and confident wearing — that make me feel more like myself than the "traditional adult" clothing we have grown up with.
Each panelist represented a company that caters specifically to every geek girl's likes and preferences. They show that you can fashionably integrate your geek passions into your day-to-day life. The panel was hosted by Lisa Granshaw (Geekfold). She was joined on stage by Teresa Mercado (Hot Topic), Ashley Eckstein (Her Universe), Allison Cimino (RockLove Jewelry), and Jaimie Cordero (Espionage Cosmetics).
Let me say this was the first panel that made it to my list when I saw it posted on RockLove Jewelry's Twitter — I am a really big fan of her work, so naturally I had to be there. Then I saw the other names that joined and it was a wrap. Once again: my closet and drawers are filled with magic thanks to them.
Granshaw started by asking Mercado what is it like to work for Hot Topic. She replied she had joined the team recently and that it has been a phenomenal experience to work for them — she added it was particularly so because of how close she gets to work with fans, as well as amazing licenses such as Harry Potter and Star Wars.
Eckstein was then asked about Her Universe's yearly fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con and the theme of "Following Your Dreams" — if you can dream it, you can do it. To this, she replied that given that her dad worked at Disney and after spending so much time there, her parents used Disney as inspiration for their kids to follow their own dreams. She mentioned her Alice in Wonderland-inspired offices — specifically by the quote she tries to keep in mind every day: "Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Eckstein stated Her Universe aims to make that stage a place where dreams come true. This is the reason why they do the design competitions — in order to help open doors and showcase the work of other talented geeks.
We then got to hear from Cimino about her craft and her approach to jewelry — how she has elevated the idea of geeky jewelry. She talked about her studies in Florence and how bad her allergies are to many metals. She also mentioned how important quality and style is to her — she strives to create something you can wear every day and feel comfortable in.
I enjoyed listening to Cordero talk about her path in building up Espionage Cosmetics — she mentioned how they were doing many conventions for a while in order to connect with fans directly and get feedback. She pointed out she likes to call it muggle-friendly fashion in the sense that a lot of normal people might not get the references, but other fans will.
The panelists then went on to describe the creative processes behind their collection and each of the steps they have to take. They emphasized how much fun and how much work goes into creating every single piece. Cordero mentioned how, for her team, it usually revolves about being interested in a particular license they will be working with and if they can add value to it — it's about making smart decisions as a business and balancing it with being a fan. Cimino added it is very important for it to come from a point of sincerity in order for pieces to translate properly and about contributing something new to the fandom. Eckstein stated her process starts from the marketing perspective.
They also discussed the different licenses/properties and their involvement in the creative process. Cordero answered it tends to depend on the licensors. Eckstein then added and emphasized all the different steps, audits, and quality checks it takes for each of their product to go through before they are released to consumers. They all agreed each property they have worked with tends to be very supportive and make sure their employees are being treated fairly and humanely. Later on they were also asked if their businesses are all cruelty-free — the answer was yes.
Before opening up the floor for questions, Granshaw asked the panelists if they had any advice to give any future entrepreneurs. Eckstein quickly responded to not let fear hold you back, stating, "You just have to believe." However, she urged everyone who is interested in starting a business to surround themselves with people who have different strengths and can contribute something different to the team. It will be what makes your team stronger.
Mercado encouraged people to find good mentors who you can actually listen and learn from. As for Cordero, she stated she would spend less time making and balance her craft with also the business portion of it. Cimino then added that one of the biggest lessons she has learned is sharing the burden — delegating work or asking for help. She also added that it is okay to start small; to learn how to walk before running. By taking a small step and then another, you can make progress.
This was, sincerely, one of my favorite panels of the weekend. I loved hearing them talk about their trajectories to get to where they are at right now — the trials and errors. Each lady was so down to earth and each incredibly inspiring in their own way. I enjoyed how each of them brought something different to the table that most of us in the audience could relate to. It was very refreshing to hear their stories and be empowered by them. It was the one panel I left in a while feeling thankful to each panelist, moved, and encouraged to keep working on my craft and following my path.