Geek fashion rocks with Catherine Elhoffer! Let’s enter the world of Elhofferdesign and discover all that this great designer can offer to us! But, before we start with the interview, I’d like to explain a little bit how I discovered her. Some time ago, surfing the web, I discovered the brand We Love Fine. And I was hooked on their geek fashion! Spider-Gwen opened my personal geek fashion Pandora’s box. I needed to walk around with the Spider-Gwen tank hoodie and cardigan. But I didn’t stop there! I got other super cool items little by little. And then, I noticed something: I had been buying the designs of Elhofferdesigns (Marvel and Star Wars). Then, I looked for her online, and I discovered her work! And it was love at first sight! This is the first time I am in deep love with the work of a single designer. Not only she creates great fashion, I feel that she is creating the wardrobe of Yours Truly. Her designs are fresh, badass, sexy and examples of what geek fashion should be! Not just tees, but a great variety of possibilities: from the elegant and sexy to the badass and provocative, to the ret-à-porter. You find everything! And that’s why I am so excited to have been able to do this interview with this great designer! Remember her: Elhofferdesign! She rocks!
Pepi: What triggered you to start teaching yourself to design geek fashion at such a young age?
Catherine: I don’t know if there is an exact thing that triggered it… I mean, being a fangirl has been a part of my life since I was a kid sneaking out of my bedroom to play on my Sega Genesis or staying up late to finish the Sandman series. I think my geekiness is what triggered it.
I volunteered in my local renfaire at 15, which got me into sewing and playing around with fabrics. It kind of steamrolled from there as I learned to make my own clothing (much of it Goth as that was my interest at the time) and then turned into, as many geek girls have done, altering Tshirts and mens clothes to make them fit me.
That was my gateway drug. Sewing. When I would see geek fabrics at Walmart or Joann’s I’d grab them and make something – anything – out of them. And then I had moved into Bounding before that had a name, making inspired pieces for myself and friends. And then Black Milk exploded here in the states and I had to have their stuff, which was so expensive but so worth it. By then I was out in Los Angeles (I’m from St. Louis), and I had the fashion district to source fabrics from, and I was suddenly aware of all of the printed spandexes that were available! So I upgraded my Overlock machine and pulled apart my Black Milk skater dress (without actually pulling it apart – I’m not a monster) and started revising patterns and learning about new threads and such.
Then I got obsessed with Game of Thrones and wanting to BE Khaleesi, so I started messing around with fabrics and patterns to get an everyday Khaleesi top. And that really set the ball rolling, because I could use fabric I already owned to make an inspired piece.
Pepi: Was it tough to design clothing for TV and films?
Catherine: It was incredibly fun but incredibly time consuming. I was the head of the costume department on my projects, so I’m responsible for everything related to what the actors would wear. Down to ‘did they need a wedding ring?’. But it wasn’t every that difficult. I studied costume design intensely at college, which earned me a degree in it. I had an amazing professor and mentor, Bonnie Kruger, and she specializes in Opera. She even took me with her to Germany for one of her Opera seasons, and I helped in making some of the most insanely intense costumes I’ve ever worked on to this day. So having a background in Opera Theater really got me ready for film. Nothing is as crazy as opera.
The most difficult parts of film/TV was the tight bugets and turnaround time. I’d get a few days to get looks for an entire cast and only have a couple hundred bucks to do so. Thankfully as I progressed in my Costume Design career the budgets grew, for which I was exceedingly grateful for.
The most difficult film/tv piece I did had to be my Game of Thrones/House of Cards mashup for Quiznos, where I had 5 days to get or make very specific characters and costumes together. I ended up renting most of the background characters and men’s costumes, but I made Khaleesi and Joffrey’s costumes, since they are so iconic. Khaleesi’s I made in twenty minutes, and Joffrey’s I made in 4 hours. (His crown took another few hours, which was a nightmare!). I’m a very strong seamstress, thanks to opera and theater, which has made my career in film/tv much easier than someone’s with no background in sewing. 🙂
Pepi: What is the most rewarding thing about designing geek fashion?
Catherine: Obviously the fan/customer response! Searching hashtags and seeing all of the love for something I designed fills me with such immense joy and satisfaction, it makes it all worth it. And there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this world. It’s not easy.
Actually, even more rewarding is when fans TAG me in their photos, that they recognize that when I design for a company I still get credit, it’s everything. When the Sith Dress I designer for WLF shipped, some amazing fangirls tagged me in their photos showing off their love, and it brought tears to my eyes. To be recognized for my work is just unbelievable. I’m so thrilled to help change and fix this world. The fashion world is a nightmare; women’s clothing is never sized right and geek clothing is often forced to be sized in junior’s sizing, leading to even more body dismorphia issues with women. So I was thrilled to be able to design clothing that was more likely to fit properly and, maybe, had pockets.
Pepi: How do you feel knowing so many people love your designs?
Catherine: It’s an honor. What’s great is that it’s not just ‘people’, it’s FANS. It’s people just like me who love it. It’s my peers. My fellow geeks in arms. So it’s incredible. I always get so excited when a collection is coming out. I get anxious, too, because there is always negative trolls and all. Like when Spider-Gwen dropped earlier this year, a ton of dudes were super upset that the hoodie wasn’t available in men’s sizing. And there was a girl, I don’t remember her name, who commented on them with the exact sentiment I was feeling. It was something like ‘Oh yeah, doesn’t it suck when your entire gender is treated as though they don’t exist and aren’t real fans? Yeah, you can sit back down and wait, women haven’t been catered to in the geek world EVER.’
It makes me happy to know that I have such support that fans will even stand up for me. That makes me so happy. I feel like I have helped a real community that protects their own, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.
Pepi: What would you tell someone who would like to follow up your steps?
Catherine: Well, be prepared to work really, really hard for very, very little money for a while. You don’t get rich off this. A lot of my stuff when I started out were just one-offs I made out of my own pocket and time. The learning takes time. But please, please learn how to sew. It will be much better in the long run if you can sew. And obviously practice drawing so you can explain your designs visually. I prefer a fashion croquis sketchbook and my TomBow markers, they get my ideas out nice and quick! Also you should learn Photoshop and Illustrator, they’re vital.
But also, learn from everything. I was at Disneyworld a few months back on vacation, and I absolutely suck at vacation because I was in all the shops looking at all the merchandise taking photos of everything, because it was all inspiration for me. I would sketch ideas on my phone while waiting in line for rides, and take notes for more complicated pieces. I never stop working. And you’re kind of going to need that mentality and drive if you want to be successful in any line of work. I also spend hours gaming almost every day, so i’m not a robot or anything, but I like to think that the whole world inspires me, and that’s why I am able to do what I do.
Pepi: Finally, which is your favorite fandom?
Catherine: How Dare You. How am I supposed to chose?! Should it be Sandman by Neil Gaiman, which is why I got my first tattoo? Or Harry Potter, which is my second and favorite ink on my skin: Mudblood just like Bellatrix carved into Hermione’s arm (and also the fandom that I read fanfics from almost daily? I don’t have a problem, you have a problem. Have you READ some of these fics? They’re phenomenal. Just unbelievably amazing). Or Marvel (and yes, I’m just choosing Marvel Universe, which you can fall endlessly into and never find the bottom), which has so many amazing female characters, alternate universes on top of alternate universes, and so many human stories of superhuman characters that I’ll be crying by the end of any trade – guaranteed. Or Legend of Zelda, which inspired my first fanon theory (In Ocarina of Time, Link and Zelda are 100% Twins. Like, it’s not even a question in my mind). Or Star Trek, which I ship Picard/Janeway in, and love how intense the fans are even to this day without any new episodes. Or my first real fandom that earned me one of my first friends outside of school: Star Wars; I was reading the EU books at a family pool party, and a kid of one of my dad’s friends came up and started talking to me all about it because he had just finished it and had to fan-splode on another fan about it. Darksaber. I will never forget that day. I made a friend in my fanon.
Ok, this should have been a simple answer. I’m sorry, I’m such a fangirl.
But I guess if we go into actual fandom, the fans that make up the fandom itself, that help create and build and maintain the fandom, it’d be Harry Potter. Marvel fans can be really mean, Star Trek fans can be really picky, as can Star Wars fans. Potter fans tend to just be more opening and welcoming, even the Slytherins. Because we know in the end that the books were about welcoming, forgiveness, and love. That even the Malfoys can reform. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.” Dammit, I’m crying again. I love Potter.
@jessicalynngonz looking gorgeous in the #firstorder #stormtrooper dress I made! I'll be dropping pics here over the next few days of these looks, so be sure to follow! #starwars #forceawakens #starwarsfashion #spandex #white #trooper #geek #geekbound #geekchic #geekdesign #geekfashion (photo edit also by @jessicalynngonz)
You can find Catherine Elhoffer’s awesome designs here:
Elhofferdesigns has just released super sexy Star Wars dresses. Comissions can still be ordered here.
Just photo'd my gf @jessicalynngonz in some of my samples for the #starwars #forceawakens collection I'm doing. And holy CRAP doesn't she look INSANE in this #captainphasma dress!? This one is a tank version rather than one shouldered. She makes such an amazing model, and she even edited the pics for me! I'm the photog for these, as it was a last minute idea #geekchic #geekbound #geekdesign #geekfashion #geek #starwarsfashion #stormtrooper #chrome #spandex #cape #cosplay #gwendolinechristie