Interview with Rachel Roth, the Designer of ‘Tano Couture’
Costume designer Rachel Roth talks about 'Tano Couture' and her experiences as a Her Universe Fashion Show contestant
One of the standout designs at this year’s Her Universe Fashion Show was “Tano Couture”, the Ahsoka Tano-inspired dress designed and brought to life by talented cosplayer and costumer Rachel Roth.
I caught up with Rachel recently to learn more about her eye-catching Tano Couture outfit, her background in fashion design, and her experience as a contestant in the 2017 Her Universe Fashion Show.
Hello there! Tell us a little about yourself, your interests, and how you got into geek fashion.
Heya! First of all, thank you so much for liking my dress! I’m so happy with how it turned out.
To be honest, I’ve always been a giant nerd. As a kid, I would hang out at the local comic book store, play video games, and cosplay with my friends at small comic conventions. After high school, I decided to pursue sewing and majored in fashion design at FIDM. Hopefully, I can do costumes for movies, or work for a geek-centered fashion brand one day. Until then, I’ll just be working on my portfolio and getting my name out there with my costuming and my geek fashion store, Unicorn Sushi.
According to your designer bio, you have experience of running your own geek clothing store and have taken on costume commissions in the past. Did you work on any other Star Wars-inspired costumes or accessories before ‘Tano Couture’?
Before Tano Couture, I designed and made a “Slave Leia” inspired dress, which I wore to the fashion show. Other than those two, I have been working on a Mara Jade cosplay (for myself) and hope to submit it for 501st approval!
Now, let’s talk about the Her Universe Fashion Show. What inspired you to enter the contest? And could you tell us a little about the application process?
This was my third time entering but my first time competing in the Her Universe Fashion Show. I’ve done other geek fashion shows in the past, but this was the first geek couture fashion show.
I feel that with couture there are no boundaries. It’s essentially wearable art. So I was really excited to show off my creativity.
When I sent in my application, I submitted a total of three designs. I just happened to be re-watching The Clone Wars when I came up with the Tano Couture design. Luckily, that was the one chosen. It was definitely my favourite out of the three I submitted this year.
Moving onto your ‘Tano Couture’ design, which was one of the most talked-about designs of this year’s show. In your bio, you mentioned that Ahsoka Tano is your favourite spunky Jedi and that your design was inspired by her look in the later seasons of The Clone Wars. Could you talk us through your design and some of the techniques and materials you used to bring your design to life?
Ahsoka is one of those characters that you may not initially connect with, but she goes through so much character growth throughout the series that you can’t help but love her. She is so sassy, strong willed, and not a “girly” girl at all.
Whenever I design something inspired by a character, I try to capture who they are and consider if this is something they would wear (rather than just redesign their outfit). I designed the gown to have a fitted mermaid skirt with 6 godet inserts, which made the hem about 15 yards long. That way, whenever my model Emmaskies twirled, there would be a dramatic flair. I feel it helped give that outfit a powerful silhouette.
As for the rest, I went with minimal small detailing and did more colour blocking (like the cartoon). My main focus was mixing different textures and using fabrics that a Jedi might wear. I used faux suede for the skirt and paired it with a tone-on-tone silk Dupioni top, which had metallic leather accents.
Then, to balance out all the structured elements of the gown, I used a light-weight chiffon for the head piece. I hand painted all of the stripes on to it, chosing to use the Rebels lekku stripe pattern instead of the Clone Wars version (her stripes in Rebels look much more organic and fluid). I practiced putting on the head wrap several times so I could mimic her lekku shape and am actually working on a video tutorial on how to create a lekku head wrap!
For this year’s show, you got the chance to work with cosplayer EmmaSkies, who modelled your design on the runway. Do you know her personally and do you have any fun anecdotes about your time working together? And who was responsible for her amazing Ahsoka-inspired makeup?
Emma is a close friend of mine and when I told her I was having trouble securing a model, she volunteered right away. I couldn’t be more grateful. She was my cheerleader and was so much fun to work with, even though she would not stop running around and twirling in that dress back stage. Every five minutes I would have to tell her “Emma, stop moving”. I definitely had to fix the head piece a few times and repaired the dress before the show started, haha.
I came up with the concept for Emma’s makeup but my friend Nicolle helped execute the look I was going for. I originally thought about doing full body paint but decided to go for a more inspired/editorial Ahsoka look. I felt that body paint would have taken away from the dress or make it look too costumey. I wanted the dress to be the main focus and just have everything else complement it.
I also want to thank my friends Paige and Maya for helping me out back stage and prepping for the fashion show. I couldn’t have done it with out them!
Now that this year’s San Diego Comic Con is over, do you have any other exciting projects in the works? And do you have any plans to take part in next year’s Her Universe Fashion Show?
I’m always working on new cosplay outfits but, for fashion, I’m planning on making a few of my rejected designs from my past Her Universe entries. I designed a couture Mera gown and have been slowly gathering fabric for it. I would love to finally make it when I have the time.
And, yes, I do have plans to take part in next year’s show! I loved taking part in the show this year and just want to say that I’ve never worked with (or competed against) so many other talented and supportive designers before. Everyone was so sweet! We actually had a private Facebook group where we could post entries about our designs, post updates on our progress, or even ask for advice. So, I would definitely love to be a part of the show again!
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in submitting their designs for the 2018 Her Universe Fashion Show?
Design what you’re passionate about. If you don’t care about the fandom you’re designing for, it will show and the outfit will be a drag to make if they choose that design.
Other tips I can give about designing: Only add what will help and improve the design. If you can remove something and the outfit looks just as good, do it. Less is more. And, most importantly, have fun and show off your creativity!
And, finally, where can people find you online?
I have fashion and cosplay accounts that people can follow!
Geek Fashion: Instagram – @Unicornsushiclothing and Facebook – @unicornsushiclothing
Cosplay: Instagram – @Raierae and Facebook – @ravenrothcos
All of the photographs featured in this article were sent to me by Rachel Roth. The photographers have been credited where possible but if you believe one of your photographs has been used here without your permission or has not been credited accordingly, please do not hesistate to get in touch.
The featured image for this article is a cropped version of this photo by Mark Edwards.
Great interview. That dress is spectacular! I was at the fashion show this year and I was blown away. I am never going to miss another Her Universe show if I can help it, it is such a fantastic event for fans and designers alike. Thanks for the super article!
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I’ve never had the chance to attend the HU Fashion Show but from what I’ve seen and heard about it, it’s a must-see event for anyone going to SDCC. The Doctor Strange-inspired outfit was one of my favourites. And this one, of course. 😉