Anime North 2010 – Yaya Han FAQ

Her most challenging costume to create was Carmilla, of Vampire Hunter D. It won the Yume Cosplay Prize at New York Anime Fest 2009. You can read an extended commentary from Yaya Han about the costume and see more photos of it on her website here.

She has been watching anime since she was very small. Born in China, she moved to Germany with her mother when she was nine and lived there for ten years. While in Germany, she got more into manga and art, partly because there was much less anime. She also published a manga. When she moved to the US, she finally got to start going to conventions. The first one she attended, she went as an artist and got inspired to start cosplaying from seeing other fans in costume. She didn’t know how to sew, style wigs, or do special make up at first. She is completely self-taught.

Her first cosplay was as the character Mill-chan from Maze: Megaburst Space. Fans can watch part one, part two, and part three of the first episode on YouTube. Mill is the redhead in the strange costume. You can see Yaya Han’s costume of Mill-chan here.

Yaya Han said that at the time she first started cosplaying and going to conventions, she was also really into J-rock.

She has now made over a hundred costumes for herself, plus her commissions. She has three closets at home just for costumes and only one and a half for her regular clothes. She also has older costumes packed away in her basement. She likes to reuse her costumes almost constantly. She often attends various conventions and events, so it is good to have a variety to choose from. She makes some that are more comfortable to wear for extended periods and easy to transport for travelling to conventions. When she has to wear a costume for a really long time, like she did when judging this year’s masquerade at Anime North, it’s important to be comfortable.

She also loves shopping and fashion and describes herself as a total girlie girl. She is so busy that she doesn’t have time to make regular clothes too, so she buys clothes off the rack. She does her own styling and alterations as needed. She joked that because she does so much sewing that family and friends tend to bring alterations to her, so it’s almost like she has an alteration store too.

When she visited Japan, she really enjoyed it and fell in love with the country, culture, and everything. She wasn’t sure if she would like it so much at first, but was pleasantly surprised when she went. In fact, she even felt homesick when she left because she’d made some great friends while she was there.

Yaya Han describes cosplay culture in Japan as being very different. She said that cosplayers there tend to stick to themselves, they don’t mingle with regular fans at conventions like they do in Canada and the US. And when it comes to photos, the cosplayers tend to have private photo shoots. They either take pictures of each other or photograph themselves using a timer or remote. She said it was really impressive how some of them could use a timer and get into really intricate poses when taking their own photos.

When it comes to making costumes, Yaya Han said that she would feel stifled if she only replicated anime costumes. In addition to the costumes she makes that replicate existing characters, she makes some original designs. Her own designs are fun to make, but sometimes they aren’t as well received. Thus, she considers location when choosing costumes to wear for an event. For some events it is better to stick to more recognizable characters, at others her options are more open.

When asked if she would like to make costumes for large companies, she said that making costumes that way is very specific and restrictive. This is one of the reasons she decided to start her own business. She likes to be creative and also be her own boss.

When asked about cosplay in South America, she said that in Mexico, cosplay workmanship is not judged because 80% of sewing is done by professionals as it is inexpensive to hire seamstresses and tailors there. Thus, cosplay judging is more performance based in Mexico. The cosplayers there can use fire and smoke effects, real metals, and other special effects. They also all have detailed backgrounds for their stage performances. She said that sometimes it could be nerve-wracking to judge competitions there because it looks really dangerous, especially when there is sword play and she’s hoping that nothing slips and causes serious injury. She said there have been some accidents before, but she did not mention anything specifically.

Yaya Han highly recommends AC Paradise for cosplayers and photographers of cosplayers. The cosplay focused site is run by cosplayers. Users can share cosplay photos and network with others in the cosplay community.

When it comes to revealing costumes, Yaya Han admits that it does attract some unwanted or somewhat negative attention, but advises that if you act classy, people won’t get the wrong idea too much. She said that it is important to do only do what you’re comfortable with. She said sometimes people would ask her to pose on all fours in her Felicia costume (from the Darkstalkers video game) and she wouldn’t because she is not comfortable with that. Although that’s one of her most revealing costumes, she said she doesn’t really feel naked in it because she’s still covered up.

Yaya Han says that she most enjoys making costumes with corsets, wings, and feathers. She hates working with velvet because it frays easily, and finds vinyl difficult to work with, however vinyl is easier to handle now with a Teflon foot. Painting on costumes can be frustrating as it is not always easy to get it to dry properly and stick to certain materials. Although there are certain pieces she enjoys to make more than others, she actively tries to encourage herself to try new things and expand her skills.

For Yaya Han, her passion is in costume making and everything else is secondary. She really enjoys travelling to conventions, meeting new people, and talking about cosplay. She would like to write a book in the future that is half about her cosplay experiences and also covers how to make costumes.

She would love to return to Canada again and encourages fans to let convention staff know that they want to see her.

When it comes to choosing characters to create costumes for, there are some characters that she doesn’t cosplay as she doesn’t feel that she fits the bill. For example, she avoids cosplaying really tall characters. When it comes to new, difficult costumes she can consult some friends who can help her learn new techniques in order to construct pieces when she needs assistance.

When it comes to seeing the reactions of artists, she finds it an honour to see an artist get excited about a costume she’s wearing based on a character they have created. For example, her Scarlet Witch costume inspired by artwork created by Mark Brooks. She said that there are lots of other costumes she’d like to make in the future. When asked about some comic book characters she’d like to create costumes of, she said some of the characters she’d like to cosplay in future are Silk Spectre from Watchmen as well as Poison Ivy or Wonder Woman in an anime style (for Dragon Con). She is a big Batman fan so she would love to do some costumes from that franchise. She also has some video game and anime costumes on her to do list, including Pirotess from Lodoss Wars and Diao Chan from Dynasty Warriors 6.

Yaya Han’s recommendations for equipment to use for making costumes includes: a serger, a Teflon foot for working with vinyl, a dremel tool (which is very versatile), as well as a heat gun for plastics and such. She is also constantly looking for new techniques to make costume pieces.

She styles all her wigs herself. In fact, the wig for the Faye Valentine costume she was wearing at the panel was styled in Japan. She needed to buy a replacement wig when she went there, then styled it in her hotel room using a towel and an ice bucket as an impromptu wig head (because she couldn’t fit one in her suitcase).

When asked how long it takes on average to make a new costume, Yaya Han said that she generally orders various materials ahead of time and starts making costumes later when she feels like beginning a new one and has enough materials to start. It’s difficult to estimate how long it takes because she’s not waiting for materials and having that delay the process. She does buy certain pieces that she can’t make, such as wigs and footwear. She advises that eBay is the best place to find wigs, for competitive pricing and variety. Once you find a seller who has wigs that you like, you can easily stick with them. She really likes lace front wigs because they look more natural. She says those are also the same type of wigs that celebrities wear. However, they only come in natural hair colours. Yaya would like to learn how to do the lace netting herself so that she can make odd coloured wigs look more natural (by using a purchased wig and attaching extensions to the netting). for footwear, Yaya recommends Electrique Boutique but notes that there is some inconsistency in sizing between different brands sold on the site.

When it comes to costuming in movies, Yaya said that there are many movies she wished she could have worked on because the costumes were so good. She also said that Catwoman was the movie she most wished she could have worked on because she hated the way the costume looked and would have liked it to be better.

If you’d like to see more of her costumes and learn more about Yaya Han, please visit her website. Photos are credited to and used with permission.

Stay tuned for more Anime North convention coverage! There’s still more to come!

One Response to “Anime North 2010 – Yaya Han FAQ”

  1. buy cosplay costumes Says:

    i like yaya, she is one of top 10 cosplayers

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