What was your first convention and what led to you taking up cosplaying?
Yaya: Before I ever knew Cosplay existed, I expressed my love for anime and manga as an avid artist. When I attended my first anime convention in 1999, Anime Expo, throughout the weekend I kept seeing people dressed up as these cool anime characters! It really inspired me to expand my artistic interest into making costumes. I learned how to sew my first garment with the help of a friend and from that point on I was on my own, learning by making lots of mistakes and being obsessively determined. I’m drawn to the potential unlimited creativity Cosplay presented. I had so much fun with the sewing, pattern drafting, wig styling, sculpting, jewelry making, props etc. that to this day, the crafty aspects are what keep me interested. I love that even after 11 years, I still have new goals and challenges to meet, and thirst for more knowledge and skills.
What would you tell to some of our readers who are new to cosplay and what you did when you first started.
Yaya: To the readers who are interested in cosplaying – When I first got into cosplay, there were no resources around, no ready made costumes, no good wig stores, no tutorials on making things or even good selections of fabric! We didn’t even have an online community or a place to post photos and share knowledge. There was literally only a mailing list where people could talk about cons and cosplay, that’s it. As a result, most cosplayers just experimented with techniques until it worked, which in hindsight was a great way to be creative and learn. I was definitely very hands on from my first costume and have always prided myself on making all of my outfits. My best advice for new cosplayers is to utilize the vast amount of resources you have at your disposal and try to create your own costumes. And please remember to have fun!
You certainly tend to theme your outfits to a much more elegant and romantic style. Is there anything that draws you to this style?
Yaya: I am a romantic at heart, and have always had a vivid imagination. I love beautiful things and love creating them even more. I was also very much so a quiet shy wallflower growing up, so maybe internally I’ve always longed to be elegant and feel beautiful. My costumes, especially the original designs, certainly reflect that. But I also try to step outside of my comfort zone and create looks from different genres and themes. I always have a million ideas, so watch out for some unexpected outfits as well!
Do your cultural Chinese roots play a factor when designing your costumes?
Yaya: Funny that you ask, my next original costume will be a mythical creature from a Chinese legend. I can’t wait! My work ethics are definitely typical Chinese I’d say lol. We are hardworking detail fanatics who don’t mind sitting for 12 hours working on a tiny part of an art piece… and that about sums up every costume making experience of mine.
You’ve travelled to many different countries, what would you say is your favorite?
Yaya: I’ve been so fortunate to have traveled a lot starting at a young age, I think it really helped shape me into the person I am today. It’s pretty impossible to say one favorite. Egypy and Greece were amazing because I am a nut for ancient cultures, the beaches of Thailand were like paradise, and the Island of Santorini was like walking around in a painting. I also adored Japan and can’t wait to go back.
Yaya: I’m a hardcore old school anime fan, loyal to those great classic titles from “Rose of Versailles”, “Vision of Escaflowne” and “Ranma ½”, to “Cowboy Bebop”, “X-1999” (the manga) and “Record of Lodoss Wars”. I was an even bigger fan of manga and had such a large collection of book series that the shelves in my room collapsed. I always felt like anime had to cut corners sometimes and didn’t convey the characters’ emotions and storylines as beautifully as the manga books did… However, the best anime movies are and will always be Studio Ghibli films and I absolutely adore them.
Some of your costumes are extremely well made and very exotic. Has there been any risk of a “wardrobe malfunction”?
Yaya: Well, the risk is always there for any costumer! But that’s where you prepare and tape and wear dance tights and make sure seams are reinforced! Another important tip for new cosplayers.