Fashion for a Fandom: Andrew MacLaine
By Crystal Harrell
With over 18 years of experience in the world of fashion, Palm Springs native Andrew MacLaine has cemented his love for design through his work in theatre costuming, participating in Project Runway, and winning the Her Universe Geek Couture Fashion Show in 2014. Drawing inspiration from the whimsical, vintage, and nerdy, MacLaine shares his story and how fashion plays an important role in the way we express ourselves.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I was actually a theatre major in college; I did a lot of plays and liked to sing and dance. At one point, I was presented with the decision to take either lighting design or costume construction as a required elective, and since I had played around with lighting already, I decided to learn how to sew. Apparently, I was really good at it and the head of the costume department offered me a job after the course was over! And from there I took classes in design and drafting and fashion history and considered myself really lucky that I found my passion kind of by accident!
2. How would you describe your style or aesthetic?
I really like clean lines and fitted garments to the individual, first of all. And when I say, "fitted," I am not only talking about fitted to the body, but also fitted to what they want to say about their personality and what story they want to say about who they are. I like to design clothing that allows you to show who you are (or who you are trying to portray yourself as).
3. You've stated that your pieces have a "futuristic vintage-television edge". Which TV shows do you take inspiration from?
I love the classic TV shows from the '50s and '60s, and even up to the '80s. The kind of shows with iconic characters that bring forth good memories or admiration for the characters that you can’t help but want to emulate: Star Trek, The Patty Duke Show, Buck Rogers, Laugh-In; you know, shows that either make you laugh, or make you feel like you could take over the world if you wanted to.
4. How does pop culture shape your designs?
When you’re designing something fashionable (as opposed to costume), of course you have to think about what is popular and relevant at any given time. You also have to play mind reader a little bit and try to predict what’s going to be hot in the near future. This is a cool game, I think. There are certain rules that history follows that will help you along (a whole other subject that I shouldn’t have brought up because that’s an entire essay right there), but really figuring out what pop culture is going to find most exciting in a few months is part luck and part skill, but mostly luck. What I find especially exciting right now is that pop-culturally speaking, geek and nerd style is in, and that’s great for people like me! It’s more than just the popularity of The Big Bang Theory, like a lot of people think. It’s because in this day and age, and in this economy, being smart and creative and having a job is sexy!
5. What is the clothing design process like for you?
I start with a few rough sketches until I narrow it down to elements that I really like, but I don’t do a final sketch until I actually have the fabrics in hand. Sometimes you run into a fabric that will behave in a different manner than the sketch would indicate, and you don’t want to be tied to just one possibility! Then I make a pattern of the garment according to the person’s measurements and create a mockup. This is a “fake” garment that is made from a fabric that is similar in behavior to the real fabric but a lot cheaper, that I can fit on the client and make markings and adjustments as needed. Then I cut apart the mockup, transfer any adjustments that I made onto the original pattern, then cut and make the real dress. If the garment is more complicated, sometimes I even do two to three mockups before I cut into the real fabric. Once the dress is done, I do a final fitting and the magic is complete!
6. What is your most favorite piece that you've designed?
Well, I have a lot of pieces that make me smile when I think about them. The LEGO dress, of course, the flying goddess dresses, even the Twiki dress that I made out of window shades and cleaning rags. But I have to say the Regina dress from my first Comic Con will probably always be my favorite because it was a life moment in which everything went right and not a thing could have been changed to make it better!
7. How did you first get involved in the Her Universe fashion show?
I love this story. I had a couple of clients that I had become friends with through a photographer in San Diego. They had me make them some costumes from the Japanese '60s TV show Science Patrol to wear at Comic Con in 2013. The costumes even won them an award at the convention! So, the wife, Robyn, actually saw the post online about the Her Universe Geek Couture Fashion Show, and thought I would be interested. When I saw it, I was like, “Oh, Hells. I don’t only have to enter then, I have to win this!”
8. How did it feel to win the 2014 Her Universe fashion show?
It was exciting beyond words. Believe it or not, I have been in front of many judging panels before and been told no, no, no. My designs were a bit "costume." My references were too obscure. One judge even complained about a color choice of one of my dresses when he was wearing the exact same color. Bottom line is, I had been told for years that I was doing fashion "wrong." It felt amazing to finally be told that I was doing it right. And I was being told I was doing it right by a community of amazing, creative people!
9. You recently collaborated with Nathan Samaya to design that LEGO dress for the 2016 Her Universe fashion show. Can you describe what that experience was like?
Nathan was awesome to collaborate with. He’s so cool, and our personalities worked together very well because we are both confident in what we do.
10. If you could be the costume designer for any TV show, movie, or play, what would it be?
Well, it would be obvious to say Once Upon A Time for me, but it’s true! I love that the show is set in modern times as well as in a fantasy world and the way that the characters dress in both worlds still has to match.
11. Where do you hope to see yourself in the future?
I don’t like planning too much ahead, actually. That sounds kind of bad, but you never know what is going to pop up and I like to toe the line of being really driven and being able to roll with whatever comes my way, just as long as I have the goal to be the best that I can be.
12. What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Winning the Her Universe Fashion show, of course! But not just that one moment. Just participating led me to meet so many awesome people and opened up so many doors to experiences that I never would have had before.
13. Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers?
Yes! First of all, follow through with what you design. Don’t think that you can draw a pretty picture of a dress and call yourself a designer. You have to make sure it can exist in the real world. You have to know how to sew. Speaking of sewing, don’t be afraid of using new machines. It took me years to learn how to use a serger. It changed my life. Make friends with other creative people. It will keep you motivated to push the limits of your imagination. Learn how to draft your own patterns. Yes, this means using all that math you learned in school that you swore you would never need to know! And finally, realize that design is subjective and people’s opinions are secondary to how you feel about your own work. If you like it, that’s what matters most.
To learn more about MacLaine and his fashion designs, visit his website.