How Tomb Raider became Her Universe’s first video game fashion line
Tomb Raider was a staple of Hannah Kent’s childhood. She grew up with a dad who was a big gamer and when he brought home the first Tomb Raider video game, playing it became an after school activity. She would finish her homework as quickly as possible so she could play the game with her father. This continued with future Tomb Raider games and Kent became a passionate fan, eventually cosplaying as the game’s iconic hero Lara Croft. Now Kent is sharing her love for the franchise with fellow fans in a brand new way as the designer of Her Universe’s Tomb Raider fashion line.
The collection launched ahead of the release of Square Enix’s new Shadow of the Tomb Raider game and marks the first time Her Universe has ever entered the world of video game fashion. Kent’s fond memories of Tomb Raider and her passion as a fan made her the perfect choice to work on the line, though the chance came about as a bit of a coincidence.
Kent told GeekFold it was a great experience previously working with Her Universe on their Wonder Woman line for Hot Topic as a winner of the 2016 Her Universe Fashion Show. She let Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein know she would love to work with them again if the opportunity ever arose and during a conversation between the two, the idea of Her Universe entering gaming fashion came up. Kent told Eckstein she was a big Tomb Raider fan and would love to help design a collection if they ever made a line for the games. It turns out this was perfect timing.
“The Tomb Raider licensing representatives had just been out to our office and I heard that it was a possibility that we could get to design a Tomb Raider collection. I had been talking with Hot Topic for months about my desire to get into gaming, but I also shared with them my reservations that I wouldn’t want to get into gaming unless I could truly design from a fans point of view,” Eckstein told GeekFold. “That’s kind of my one steady rule for Her Universe from the beginning is that all the designs have to be authentic. This opportunity with Tomb Raider presented itself and I was thrilled about it, but at the same time very intimidated because I didn’t grow up playing Tomb Raider. I wasn’t as familiar with the property aside from the films and I really wanted to do the game justice.”
According to Eckstein, after her talk with Kent, the company received approval from Square Enix to move forward with the line. She called Kent about the collection and asked her to design it. Work on it began last fall with Kent touching base with Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, Hot Topic, and Her Universe about what they wanted in it. Keeping these perspectives in mind was invaluable to Kent as she tried to create a good balance between classic and recent Tomb Raider in her work.
“Since I’d played pretty much every game, it would be easy to fall heavily into one or the other so I really tried to balance my thoughts and make sure I was designing for both the new and the old,” Kent said.
Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics were very involved with Kent, according to Eckstein. Kent visited the offices of the licensing and creative teams to see some exclusive images from Shadow of the Tomb Raider to help with her designs.
Kent created even more designs to be considered for the line than what’s currently available, but Eckstein explained that like most collections, due to certain limits, at least half of the initial ideas were cut. While hard to pare down the designs, Eckstein trusted that Kent knew the property so well she could “speak from a fan’s point of view and say ‘this is really important’” so that there would be a nice assortment of options to honor Lara’s history.
“It was hard because I fell in love with a lot of designs for different reasons. Sometimes they were from a certain game level that I liked or just a certain fashion moment in Lara’s history. It’s like ‘oh, but this is so great fans would love this!’” Kent said. “It was hard to whittle things down, but the pieces that we settled on we felt were good strong pieces that fans would really love and enjoy being able to embrace Lara on a fashion level.”
The experience was different one from her previous work with Hot Topic and Her Universe for the Wonder Woman line. For Wonder Woman she was working with the other two winners of the fashion show whereas here she was trusted with a whole line, and she “didn’t have anyone else to fall back on” which was both exciting and scary. The Wonder Woman line was slightly more automated, but here she was involved in more phone calls and decisions throughout the process.
“They were even sending me some updates, [for example] on how the holster pouch was coming along, like here’s how we’re doing. The picture they sent me was black so I was like just a heads up it should be brown. Not sure if this is representative of the final color, but just so you know. They wrote back, ‘good. We’ll change it to brown,’” Kent told GeekFold. “Being able to kind of have that say and be more involved was really neat. I was able to dive a little deeper into what that process is like on a more officially professional level and not just from the contest experience if that makes sense.”
This was different for Eckstein as well, who really “handed over the reins” to Kent.
“I said this is your collection. This is your line. You have a blank page and I said just design me a line that, as a Tomb Raider fangirl what would you want to buy? And really kind of put the ball in her court and my trust in her hands. I feel she knocked it out of the park and she’s so talented. We’re honored to have her design this collection,” Eckstein said.
Kent said she was touched by how much Eckstein trusted her and shared credit, which is “something you don’t always see in companies these days.”
The results are an impressive and diverse line with everything from a puffer vest to active capris to a fun “Training to Take on a T-Rex” tank top that was designed by Kent’s friend Katie Manijak who works at Crystal Dynamics and is an artist. Whether or not we see more Tomb Raider designs will depend on how well this current line does.
“This is a new property for us. Not even a new property, a new genre for us. We do have a couple more gaming collections for different properties coming up so we have two more collections in the works which I can’t share yet, but can say they’re coming,” Eckstein said. “I’m really hopeful between these first three collections that we can really show there’s an appetite for gaming and Her Universe.”
The idea of more gaming fashion from Her Universe is an exciting one. There needs to be more variety in video game fashion for women so we can show our love for these franchises and characters as much as the other properties we’re passionate about. After all, games can make huge differences in our lives just like movies or comics can. One look at Lara Croft proves that, with Kent herself as a great example. Playing as a kid, Tomb Raider made her feel empowered to find her own inner strength. It makes the fact that the game and character are a focus for Her Universe’s first gaming line extremely fitting.
While Kent knows nowadays there are even more empowered female characters in all different types of games that can make an impact, Lara will always hold a special place to her.
“She’s solving puzzles. She’s kicking butt. She’s taking on a T-Rex. I can’t imagine a more perfect first video game to go with for Her Universe than Tomb Raider and Lara Croft,” Kent said. “It’s really hard for me to put into words how the franchise and this game has been such a big part of my life. It’s something that I now get to share, my love of this game and of fashion, and to bring that to life with Ashley through this moment. It might just seem like another fashion line to some people, but for me this is just such a gift.”
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