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Grown-Up Playtime

Handcrafted from muslin and luxe materials, Andrew Yang's dolls 'The Kouklitas' are collectors items to be played with off the shelves

Inspired by his love of fashion, Andrew Yang creates handcrafted dolls in muslin and couture fabrics which he lovingly weaves in-depth stories to enrich their backgrounds. Named 'Kouklitas' derived from the Greek word for doll, 'koukla', they are more than just dolls to put on display, they're made to be played with, redressed and treated as characters to work with your imagination. The luxurious 27 inch dolls can be also custom-made down to the hair and eye colour, clothes and even tattoos.

Dazed Digital: Why did you decide to take on dolls and not another form of design such as continuing to work in fashion?

Andrew Yang: As much as I love fashion - the shows, the concepts, magazine editorials, photographers, and visionaries - when you get down to it, the backbone of design work is making clothes that sell for a specific customer. I found myself feeling cornered by the restraints that the industry imposes, and I wasn't able to flex my creative muscles enough! I've loved dolls since I was a kid and realized that I had developed an entire skill set from working in fashion that I could use to create the ultimate fabric fashion doll. When I was a kid I used to drive by department store windows and be in love with the mannequins-- I didn't just want to make the clothes, I wanted to make her hair, design her face; making dolls allows me to do just that.

DD: How are your dolls different to the rest?
Andrew Yang: Well, they are one of a kind dolls made out of muslin, but unlike most 'art' dolls, they are made to be redressed and played with. I use only the best couture fabrics and techniques in the gown construction, and most of their outfits can be worn several different ways. By the time I've finished sewing, cutting, stuffing, wigging, and painting a doll's face, they have developed a persona that is completely derived from my imagination - inviting the customer into my brain for a little while.

DD: In terms of custom dolls, what kind of clients do you see requesting them and what have they asked for?
Andrew Yang: I work with a lot of interior designers, making dolls according to a specific colour palette they have in mind for one of their own clients, sometimes using fabrics they send me to make sure her dress and look matches upholstery or drapes in a room. I recently finished a doll for a high end salon for a client who liked the look of one of my dolls, but wanted her in a darker skin tone and a violet gown. The range of what people ask for is wide - I've made everything from a Dolly Parton doppelganger to an African mermaid. A lot of my consistent custom orders have been for parents who are looking for an extravagant gift for their children, and I'm looking forward to working with a few fashion photographers who request specific dolls to match their vision for an editorial.

DD: You say there's a story behind each of them, are they based on/inspired by real events or are they all entirely fictional?
Andrew Yang: The stories are purely fictional, with the occasional exception of a fascinating historical character, like the Lady Murasaki Shikibu, who is credited with writing the first novel in medieval Japan. I'm greatly inspired by Victorian romance novels by Ouida, as well as the work of Edward Gorey, whose work deals heavily with children and death, two subjects that are only palatable because of how adorable and sweet his work looks- since most of my girls are from another era they often lead very glamorous lives and have very romantic deaths. The narratives are an incredibly important aspect of the doll, so you're not just buying something pretty, but you're stepping into a world where the doll is a lead character.

DD: What are your plans for the future?
Andrew Yang: Aaah, so many plans! I'm working on collaborating with a few design houses to create dolls for their stores, I want to use the dolls in short films and art performances, develop them as stick puppets or marionettes, as well as experiment with wood carving and casting in porcelain. I'd love to team up with a manufacturer eventually to create a different doll that's available to a wider market at a slightly lower price point. I have a few illustrated book projects that I'm going to try and get published in the next few years, and I may end up returning to fashion design, I get a lot of requests to make my doll dresses for people! So who knows?