Andrew Yang, whose fabulous fashionista rag dolls are on display at Elements, has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with art
Andrew Yang, creator of those fabulous fashionista Kouklita dolls, on his art
New york-based multimedia artist Andrew Yang graduated from the Big Apple’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and worked at Proenza Schouler and Dennis Basso before creating the couture fashion dolls that gave him serious buzz in the fashion world. His figurines—called Kouklitas after the Greek term of endearment koukla, meaning “doll”—are either based on the looks of labels with which he has partnered, such as Lanvin and Giorgio Armani, or are a kooky and gothic bunch of characters straight from his imagination. Yang first created a stir with The New York Times debut of his effigies of US Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington. His dolls have since attracted a large coterie of fans and sell for as much as US$10,000. The first floor of the Elements shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui has been transformed into a winter wonderland, showcasing more than 100 Kouklitas Christmas dolls clad in exquisite party gowns. For the collaboration with Elements, Yang created five dolls that represent the five key design elements of the mall: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The exhibition, titled Love in Time for Christmas, runs until December 31.
What stopped you from pursuing a traditional career in fashion? I worked as an assistant designer at an amazing New York design house for many years in what many would regard as a “dream” fashion job. In a role like that, however, one always has to focus on making the next bestselling coat or dress, and ultimately it didn’t feel creative enough for me. I wanted to make something with my hands again.
Did you play with dolls growing up? All the time. I was lucky my parents didn’t discourage it. They were happy that I was sensitive and didn’t want to play with toy guns. That said, I think they were just as surprised as I was when it turned into a career for me.
How did you learn to make a doll? What gave you the initial idea? I have loved dolls since I was very young and I always wanted to make my own but never had the patience for sculpting. However, working in fashion taught me the basics of how to sculpt with fabric, so I chose that as my medium and then doll-making became quite easy.
Hollywood star Mary Astor was your great grandmother. Did this heritage contribute to your sense of style? Yes, most definitely. Watching her movies growing up exposed me to the world of old Hollywood glamour, which is now an integral part of my designer DNA.
Which are the hardest dolls to make? For me, the portrait dolls come easily. I have translated people’s faces onto dolls so many times that now I find it fun. When I’m making lots of fashion looks for designers, some of the simpler looks can be challenging. I think dolls should be visually interesting and playful; therefore I struggle when I am tasked with recreating a fashion look that is very straightforward.
Have you ever made a doll in your likeness? I’ve made two. The first was a stylist character in a fashion-shoot scene in the Galeries Lafayette windows in Paris. The second was a gift for a very dear friend who was moving away from New York City; it was a portrait doll of me in a costume at a party, complete with a wig and ruffled skirt.
What is your all-time favourite creation? My first doll, Snejana. She was created in a very innocent and free way—and I had no idea what the world had in store for my work and life when I made her. She represents a certain artistic purity for me.
If you could make a doll of anyone in Asia, who would you pick? I love Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng and also the model Ju Xiaowen—even though she lives in New York.
GUY AND DOLLS Andrew Yang and two of the couture dolls he created for Elements, embodying the themes of water and fire