Last week at Comic-Con Her Universe hosted their annual “Geek Couture” Fashion Show, where up-and-coming designers showcased one-of-a-kind gowns inspired by pop culture. Ashley Eckstien’s LEGO Ahsoka Tano dress definitely caught everyone’s attention, but there was another gown that stood out to us. Laura Cristina Ortiz‘s design, an dress inspired by the Disney•Pixar classic, WALL•E, used all recycled materials to create a unique gown that stayed true to the film’s theme and looked amazing too. We had to know more about how Ortiz the created the gown, and she was kind enough to speak with us and share some behind-the-scenes photos of the creation of the dress!
Why did you choose WALL•E as your inspiration for your design?
Wall•E is one of my favorite movies of all time! From the adorable love story, to the greater message of sustainability and consumer consumption, there are many elements of the movie that resonated with me. It was also part of my (now) fiancé’s courtship, Idan is my real life WALL•E!
What was the design process like for this dress?
After being a part of the Her Universe Fashion Show last year, one of my goals with my designs was to challenge myself with different techniques and/or materials. I actually designed both an EVE and a WALL•E dress, both featuring very different aesthetics and executions. However, the WALL•E design won my heart, because of the eco-friendly message behind it.
The concept of what materials to use where, was still very amorphous, even after I was officially selected for the fashion show. I spent a month researching eco-fashion; from independent designers whose specialty was this medium to the actual array of materials at my disposal. I couldn’t walk around the streets without seeing potential! That was really fun and exciting! However, I landed on cardboard (for the texture and the natural color), paper (for its drape ability) and aluminum cans (c’mon, he’s a metal robot!). Down to the last minute, I was still working with what recycled/repurposed material to use where. Originally, I wanted to use an eco-fi fabric (felt, made out of 85% recycled PET plastic), but ultimately went with coffee bean sacks for the jacket because of the natural color complimenting the palette I had chosen, and its texture (plus, I think it’s a fun detail that you can see the print of the sacks on the inside of the jacket!)
Long story short, there was A LOT of experimenting, haha!
We love that the dress is made from recyclable materials. Where did you source all the materials for the dress?
Because of the tight timeframe for the design, I hosted a “Recyclethon” party at my apartment! Many of my fiancé and I’s friends came over for snacks and drinks, but the requirement was that they had to bring recycling with them! I had three bins: one for paper/cardboard, one for plastic and one for aluminum. Even after the party, so many friends were excited about the idea that I was constantly being asked what I needed so they could help out! Actually, one of the other designers in the fashion show, Tanya Apuya (who is a good friend and designed the dress “The Story That Lived”) gave me three huge trash bags filled with cans and cardboard! It was awesome!
What is your favorite part about the design?
The overall challenge was very rewarding. I learned a lot about my own voice as a designer and became educated about fast fashion, eco-friendly solutions to everyday tasks, and got to pay homage to one of my favorite movies. However, the overall storytelling of the design was my favorite part! The details really make it – from the green leaves embroidered onto the stockings coming out of the boots, to the BnL icebox clutch (made from up cycled purses and an Ikea bag), to the aluminum can belt to mimic WALL•E’s tire treads, to all the killer accessories!
Shoutout to my fabulous jeweler Jamie Rage of Delight and Rage—I first approached her with a bunch of ideas (glasses/goggles that look like his eyes, lightbulb earrings, a Hal brooch, a bracelet featuring the knick knacks in WALL•E’s home) and she articulated them and made them a reality, while also suggesting other ideas (trash compactor ring, for example). She did an amazing job!
Finally, I had to include a couple of easter eggs because after all this is a Disney•Pixar inspired design. The lacing in the back of the bodice is actually a magic band box cut in half so there were some hidden Mickeys there and in the bracelet cuff, there is an itty bitty Luxo ball!
What was your favorite part about participating in the Her Universe Fashion Show?
As previously mentioned, this was my second year participating in the Her Universe Fashion Show. Last year, I designed a Nightmare Before Christmas gown (with a Zero shoulder piece whose nose lit up!). Being a part of the show for two years in a row really allowed myself to experiment with fabrication, design ideas as well as meet other incredibly talented designers who have diverse backgrounds and skill sets! You learn from the other designers, and share and bond over being a part of the show. It’s really wonderful!
What advice would you give to people who are interested in fashion design?
Research and perseverance! We live in an era where you can online search tutorials, watch videos, and read books about learning how to sew or the history of fashion. Also, never be afraid to experiment! We can never learn about our potential as artisans without taking risks and willing to fail- we can discover so much about ourselves in these moments and you may fall in love with a particular technique or fabric. It’s a slow and steady road, being a part of the fashion or costume industry, so hang in there! And just like Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Too see Laura’s design on the runway, watch the season finale of the docu-series, The Her Universe Fashion Show: Fashion Meets Fandom now on Comic-Con HQ. There’s also a chance for you to choose the third winner of the competition, so head on over to HerUniverse.com to pick your favorite! Voting ends at midnight PT, Thursday, August 11.