TYAKASHA Designer Tong Yun on New Designs and "Large Gorillas Full of Love"

TYAKASHA Designer Tong Yun on New Designs and "Large Gorillas Full of Love"
TYAKASHA designer Tong Yun
(Courtesy TYAKASHA)

BEIJING — A first encounter with TYAKASHA may be love at first sight, but also cause for concern. Wearing clothes with such bright colors and cute patterns might seem too childish and naïve. Yet there’s depth to their creations, allowing for the perception of qualities that range from fantastical to fearless to courageous.

Little Bird and Tong Yun created the TYAKASHA independent fashion design brand in 2005. With a photography background in tow, Little Bird serves as the Director of Operations for the brand, while Tong Yun is responsible for most of the product designing. In the past Tong Yun has done design work for Starbucks and Nike, and during the time TYAKASHA began to take form, Tong Yun also worked together with Coach, Vans, Swatch, Nikon, and other.

Beginning in 2007, Tong Yun has devoted all his time to TYAKSHA. With TYAKASHA having released their latest 2013 travel series, themed “The Tipping Point,” ARTINFO recently interviewed Tong Yun, and he shared with us the fantasy world inside his mind and his obsession with pirates.

Why did you choose a word you can’t find in the dictionary, Ta Ka Sha (TYAKASHA), to serve as the name of your brand?

The name of our brand is TYAKASHA, and people often spell it wrong. The TY in the name comes from the abbreviated version of my Chinese name, Tong Yun. I wanted to create a lexicon of my own, as this way I would be able to create the importance and meaning behind the name of the brand myself. TYAKASHA can represent the bravery of a pirate, the courage to pursue one’s dreams, unity, the fortitude to accept a challenge, or simply the ability to just enjoy life.

Why did you choose the style you have now?

As a student I loved realism, the classic Western realism style, and I would often spend a full day, or even a few days, to complete just one of my works. Later when I began interning and after entering the working world the precious time I had to complete my work became shorter and shorter. With just two or three hours of personal time for myself after getting off work, I slowly came to enjoy a Chinese style of freehand drawing. It is just like ancient Chinese ink painting, and different from Western realism oil painting, but I discovered that a few pen strokes of a man drinking can capture the mood better than that of an actual photograph. As such, I changed the direction of my research to focus on how my works can express my mood and feelings.

Small animals, cartoon characters, and other playful and contemplative elements often appear in your creations. What do they represent?

Some of the images represent myself, some of the images represent the friends I have around me, others represent a type of feeling, while still others represent a type of person. For example, one image we have used is that of large gorillas who are full of love. They have thick and broad shoulders, and give you the feeling that they are worthy of being trusted. They almost appear to be father-like, and would be able to take care of a person. People want someone in their lives like this, someone who is always there to protect them.

Which of TYAKASHA’s series has left the deepest impression on you?

We have released three clothing series: “Circus,” “Nature,” and “Travel,” and every year will now have its own theme. “Circus” was our first attempt to create a complete clothing line, and it has left the deepest impression on me. At that time, the design work for the series included the image of a wooden horse, and the colors we selected left the greatest impression on everybody.

The release for the first quarter of this year’s “Travel” series will consist of three types of custom fabrics that we designed and manufactured ourselves, featuring a series of green chiffon suits, and skirts and shirts designed with extremely cute cartoon images. The combination of the colors and fabrics together is strikingly beautiful.

How can your designs appear to be both interesting and fun, but at the same time not seem childish and overly cute?

I have always thought that doing something that is interesting or something that has not been done before is what I want to do. This is also the type of thing that people crave and look forward witnessing and being a part of.

In cases in which you are trying to be creative or innovative, the elements of childishness and tackiness seemingly appear to be design obstacles, but if your style or expressional technique is unique, then this problem will naturally take care of itself. It’s just like painting the fruits of summer, some people will say it is just a watermelon or a strawberry, tacky and lacking any style whatsoever. Yet for those who have a unique style of interpretation, these seemingly childish elements are able to become an innovative and unique print, and when matched with a color scheme that jumps out at you, the result is a product that is both interesting and fun, not just a naïve and immature children’s t-shirt.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to make TYAKASHA more perfect, to continue to try new and interesting things, and explore more types of fabric designs and combinations. I hope to create a brand that will never fail, and then I hope to take some time and put everything on the backburner and travel around the world, live life at a slower pace and take a period of time to just rest.

Click on the slideshow to see TYAKASHA’s designs.