Raeven Harris doesn’t remember much from her walk on the Her Universe Fashion Show runway at San Diego Comic-Con.
She doesn’t remember the multicolored lights and over 2,000 audience members cheering for her.
She honestly couldn’t even see the audience because of her grayish contacts.
Harris only remembers crying in relief as soon as she exited the runway, taking short, quick breaths in her tight corset. The Austin-based designer practically fell into the arms of show founder Ashley Eckstein, who told her she did a great job and who would later announce Harris as the show’s audience winner.
“After she said my name, I didn’t think I moved, but apparently my legs worked. I walked forward, which was good,” Harris said. “I still can’t believe it. It’s still a bit surreal. I’m still trying to process it, but I think it’s settling in.”
A couture tribute to Storm
Known as Raeven K. online, the 29-year-old designer based her winning gown “Mistress of the Elements” on superheroine Storm from the X-Men. The character is one Harris said she’s obsessed with as a fellow Black woman, and as a sewing teacher, Harris resonates with Storm’s leadership in the X-Men.
Harris is so obsessed that her three design submissions to the fashion show were all based on Storm. She said the show ended up picking “the hardest one,” but that’s why she wanted to enter the competition in the first place. She craved an opportunity to show off her skills and push her creative limits.
So she did just that. She placed lights within the garment, and she called the gown’s corset “one of the most beautiful things (she’s) ever made.” The corset, partially hidden under the gown’s dark fabric, provided Harris with the character’s iconic silhouette.
“That entire corset is made out of really strong, shear net so it still gives kind of the illusion of like see-through,” Harris said. “You can still see the piping lines because I did want that to be a design element. That was kind of important to me, to get the silhouette but know that that’s pattern work. Like she’s not just shaped like that. Because body positivity is important to me, and I’m not shaped like that. The dress is shaped like that.”
Throughout the process of creating her gown, Harris had support from fellow show designers in Facebook groups. The comradery was a welcome surprise for Harris.
“Coming from traditional fashion, we can be a little catty in that realm,” Harris said. “We’ve all heard of sabotaging looks, that kind of thing — that’s not going to happen (with these people). They were so sweet.”
Diving into the world of designing
Harris’s experience with traditional fashion comes from her time at the Savannah College of Art and Design as well as her experience of growing up sewing in Alabama. Her grandmother let her pick up her first needle at 5 years old, and at 7 years old, she received her first sewing machine — after a lot of begging.
As she grew older and attended SCAD, Harris said she learned how to over-engineer her garments in order to create something long-lasting rather than a fast-fashion fad.
“I’m thinking about longevity and whether or not things are convertible,” Harris said. “So pockets are huge for me. Almost everything I make has an adjustable waistband because life happens, and just making sure that things that I make can live long-term.”
With this in mind, Harris said she only had one regret in regard to her Storm-inspired dress: she couldn’t give it pockets.
Show time at San Diego Comic-Con
Harris’s time on the Her Universe runway marked not only her first time at San Diego Comic-Con but her first time modeling her own work. It served as a challenge for Harris, but when others showed her videos of the crowd reacting to her walk, the designer was pleasantly shocked.
She was especially grateful for the positive response to her couture take on Storm because, according to Harris, fans are very protective of the character. Harris also knew that Storm serves as an important point of representation for Black women, and that played into her decision to wear white locs for Storm rather than straight hair.
“She is an omega-level mutant, she’s immensely powerful and is a woman of color,” Harris said. “Like, unapologetically a woman of color. And so that was really important to me.”
As the audience winner, Harris will return to San Diego Comic-Con as a judge for the Her Universe Fashion Show alongside judges’ winner Rachel Petterson. But in the meantime, Harris will continue to teach sewing in Austin — a job that can feel just as rewarding as winning a fashion show.
“Teaching is probably my favorite aspect of this,” Harris said. “That’s the part that makes it worth it for me.”