Small Talk

An­drew Yang, whose fab­u­lous fash­ion­ista rag dolls are on dis­play at El­e­ments, has en­joyed a life­long love af­fair with art

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

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

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