Yaya Han grew up in China fascinated by manga and anime — Japanese graphic comics and animation featuring characters with superpowers. When her family moved to Germany, Yaya lost her connection to that world of fantasy. “I felt alone in my fandom,” she recalls. In 1998, while still a teen, she immigrated to the U.S. on her own to start a new life. The move had an expected upside: “It was the first time that I found other people who also shared my interests,” she says.
Soon after that, with a $40 used sewing machine and a pile of thrift store fabric, Yaya stitched together a costume and entered the world of cosplay (costume play), attending her first anime convention in California. “I was a wide-eyed teenage girl trying to find my place,” she says. “Cosplay gave me direction. I could become another character. It was like a lightning strike.”
Yaya had a talent for design and sewing and soon made a name for herself in the budding community with cosplay contest wins and awards. Eventually, others asked her to make costumes for them. So in 2005, she and her then boyfriend (now husband) Brian, whom she met at Dragon Con, set up a website to take costume orders, and Yaya quit her job as a software analyst to focus on cosplay full time. Together with Brian, she realized that it was more lucrative to make ready-to-wear cosplay accessories to sell instead of full customized costumes. Her most successful product are these cartoony pairs of cat’s ears, which she credits with catapulting her business to the next level.