Imagine walking down the street, and as you pass the millionth Starbucks, a person walks by dressed in a Wonder Woman silk track jacket. This simple article of clothing with an emblazoned Wonder Woman ‘W’ gives homage to all the great superheroes of the past and present. Congratulations, you’ve just had your first encounter with Geek Couture.
Adria Renee and Kendra Raymond are two ambitious designers in the Geek Couture fashion world. They both regularly compete and show off their fandom based outfits at a yearly “Her Universe Fashion Show” competition in California. Their designs include an elaborate Catwoman dress and an ensemble based on the “Jurassic Park” movies.
The words “Geek Couture” sound like they would be used to describe a genre of fashion that consists of nerdy glasses with tape on the noseband or small bow ties worn over plaid shirts. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Geek Couture is actually an elaborate type of fashion based on fandom characters like Wonder Woman and Kylo Ren. The designer doesn’t copy the character’s outfit, but rather incorporates details about the character and movie or show into a garment.
Adria Renee is a textiles, merchandising, and fashion design graduate student studying material culture with a focus on costume history, and she won the 2019 Her Universe Fashion Show.
Her design, based on the “Jurassic Park” movies, consisted of a white, bias cut - the material of the clothing piece is cut on a diagonal for better draping and is a dress with dinosaurs and foliage cutouts around the waist. For accessories, Renee made a shawl with “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” burned into it and a round wicker purse with a dinosaur cut-out. The words “clever girl” were beaded throughout her design. In fact, a lot of her designs contain quotes and words woven into the fabrics.
“When I approach a [Geek Couture] design, I try to look at the entire property [of the character] and one of the things I always come back to as a consistent source of information is those quotes that stick with you,” Renee said. “There’s power in words.”
Since she won the “Her Universe Fashion Show,” Renee was able to design a collection for Hot Topic based on the “Wonder Woman 1984” movie. This was a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, so everything was initially done in person. She got a tour of Hot Topic HQ and was able to meet people that helped her designs come to life.
“It was a big educational opportunity for [the winners],” Renee said. “We got to see behind the scenes operations at Hot Topic and how everything comes together.”
Renee drew up her designs and went back to her home as Hot Topic manufactured the collection.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to do all the social media and marketing posts for the Hot Topic products from her house.
“We were shooting in our own backyards. We were wearing all the hats,” Renee said. “It was very chaotic but very fun to be doing it all ourselves.”
Her collection consisted of a color block Wonder Woman T-shirt dress — with pockets — , a star-pleated skirt with a hook-on chain, a track jacket with the Wonder Woman logo, a star-printed kimono and a pink shirt with rips on the shoulder. The collection is available on the Her Universe website with some more exclusive items.
“It’s surreal to see something you designed out in the wild,” Renee said. “I love it and it’s really rewarding and just trippy. Someone I don’t know is wearing something that I made.”
Renee is currently working on her thesis project for her degree program. She plans on designing a collection based on the Star Wars fandom. She wants to try and change the way people look at fandoms. Instead of the typical white male, she hopes to show that fandoms also include women and people of color. The aim of her thesis collection and report is to be a love letter between Star Wars and women and people of color in fandoms.
“Women get a lot of sh** for fashion. If you’re too into it, you’re vain, but if you’re not into it enough, you don’t take care of yourself. [Women] always have to walk that line,” Renee said. “Fandom is a very similar space that women have to navigate.”
Another girl boss of the Geek Couture industry is Kendra Raymond. She is a UNL textiles, merchandising and fashion design alumnus. Raymond just recently moved back to Nebraska from California after her house burned down. She has designed costumes for the film “Rosie,” a bridal line for Omaha Fashion Week and countless other endeavours.
She explained that Geek Couture is an important genre of fashion since it combines fantasy with actual wearable clothing.
“It’s nice to see people who take fandoms that are loved by so many people and turn them into clothing that people can actually wear,” Raymond said.
Many of Raymond’s original designs unfortunately perished in the fire, however this doesn’t discourage her from taking pride in her work. She made a Captain America inspired poodle skirt that she wore all the time, according to Raymond. It had a quilted shield on the side and the rest of the skirt was printed like the American flag. While the skirt was Captain America influenced, it could be worn during any occasion.
For the 2019 “Her Universe Fashion Show,” Raymond decided to do a play off Catwoman and made a black floor-length dress encrusted with Swarovski crystals around the neck and lined with a sleek violet fabric. This was paired with a small round hat with cat ears and a black cover-up offset by feathery neckline and sleeves. Her model also wore silver spiral shaped heels to symbolize Catwoman’s whip.
Renee encourages designers to keep pushing and to never give up. She said that if a person wants to be a fashion designer and create Geek Couture, they should take the plunge.
“My advice [for aspiring fashion designers] is to take your dreams and just do it,” Renee said. “And I say it exactly as Shia LaBeouf does.”