SALT LAKE CITY - Andrew Yang, Judge Memorial Catholic High School Class of 2003, went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City for two years, thinking his career was there.
He worked in various fashion companies for three years, but when the economy changed it hit him, too. Yang got laid off.
As a hobby, he had started to create custom-made fashion rag dolls.
"With my unemployment check I tried to make a business with the dolls but it was going nowhere," said Yang, who at the same time was doing some freelance modeling.
"I took the dolls with me to one photo shoot and the photographer asked if he could send the pictures to Vogue. I didn’t think anything was going to happen, but the next day a woman called me and said she saw the pictures of my dolls and she wanted me to take them, so I did," said Yang.
That meeting was the beginning of what is now an international business that manufactures and sells the dolls for luxury retail, display and exhibit in New York and around the world.
"Because of that display in the magazine I got contacted to start selling and displaying my dolls at Barneys New York stores across America and in a very short time I was running my own business," said Yang. "I was struggling so much; I was so stressed, and the minute I stopped worrying, it all worked out. It was fashion that brought me back, but it was in a different way."
Barneys New York is a high-end fashion store that was founded in 1923.
In February, Andrew was contacted by the Galleries Lafayette department store in Paris, which asked him to design and create their Christmas window installation.
"Apparently, Valerie Hudelot, the directive of visual image and merchandising, had seen my dolls in the jewelry cases at Barneys New York over the previous holiday," Yang said. "Originally I thought they were interested in retailing my dolls. I was in for a surprise when it became clear a few conference calls later that they were interested in something, much, much bigger."
The process was daunting, he said. "First were the sketches. There were 110 individual characters that had to be designed for these windows. The theme is Rock N’ Noel, a Rock and Roll festival starring the K-Stars, a five-girl rock group that has taken over the music charts. They would be riding tour buses, getting their hair and makeup done, working it on fashion shoots, and of course, rocking it out in concert, in style. And, they wouldn’t be wearing any clothes by the designers of Paris, Milan, London, or New York; they would be wearing clothes designed by me," said Yang.
The final installation in Paris, featuring over 175 dolls, opened in mid-November to great success.
"And now, my dreams have come true and I am living in Paris," Yang said. "I am living at a monastery called Les Recollets near Gare de L’est. It is a facility that funds artists’ living and working spaces, and it was quite an honor to be selected to live there."
Andrew’s dolls, The Kouklitas, are available in Barneys New York stores, online at Barneys.com and Showstudio.com, and at Joyce Boutique Hong Kong. His work as been featured in Vogue magazine, The New York Times, Doll Reader, Dolls Magazine, and international publications of Elle, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar.
"I just really think that everyone needs to do what makes you happy and the way will find you," said Yang.