|Pearl Chang paper doll set by Kwei-lin Lum|
My Chinese name is Chang Ling. But you can call me Pearl. Before I became a martial-arts star, I wanted to be a television director. My big break came when I was cast in The Protectors. The show was a huge hit in Taiwan, and in Hong Kong and Singapore too. Afterwards I became an independent filmmaker, producing my own unique versions of the traditional Chinese swordswoman.
One of the things I adore most about Pearl Chang is her sartorial moxie. Without a doubt she rocks the coolest outfits in all the martial world. I've long been a big fan of wuxia fashion (it's one of the elements that hooked me on the genre). Raised on a lean diet of high-protein Western fantasy fashion à la Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo (which consists of fur loincloths, chainmail bikinis, and not much else), I was enchanted by the elegant robes and stylish hairdos of China's heroes of yore. Yet as much as I love the wuxia couture of designers like Emi Wada (The Bride with White Hair, Hero) — my own taste leans towards the eccentric and outrageous, two words which describe Pearl's costuming to a tee.
As I pondered a tribute to Pearl's unique film wardrobe, I kept imagining a paper doll set. It seemed like the perfect medium to portray the variety and playfulness of her costuming, as well as its transformative significance. (In the films comprising her so-called Wolf Devil Woman trilogy, Pearl goes through many costume changes, each one reflecting a stage in her hero's journey.) Since my own illustration skills are rather rudimentary, I decided to look for a paper doll artist whose style was as daring and singular as Pearl's.
I soon found myself at FLATDOLL, the website of Kwei-lin Lum. The unorthodox paper doll set on her homepage was an auspicious sign. As I explored the rest of her site, it quickly became apparent that Kwei-lin was a perfect match for my project. While the subject matter and style of her work is quite varied, ranging from the autobiographical Split Level (about growing up Chinese American) to Mod Pop (a Warhol-flavored celebration of 60s fashion), Kwei-lin has a special knack for the unusual. Whether it's the more commercial sets she's designed for Dover Publications (Day of the Dead, Voodoo, Twisted Fairy Tales) or her own more experimental sets (Collage, Polly, Lite Metal Spirits Dress Nicely for Spring), she always pushes the boundaries of the medium.
Even though Kwei-lin had her hands full working on a forthcoming Chinatown set for Dover Books, she graciously accepted my commission. I gave her five looks to work with: four of Pearl's most iconic costumes and a street look inspired by photos of Pearl's visit to Singapore in 1976. Then, with bated breath, I waited for Kwei-lin to work her magic. I think you'll agree that the results are pretty fabulous. I especially love such unexpected touches as the forehead scar and bloody mouth incorporated into the outfits of My Blade, My Life and Wolf Devil Woman. Unfortunately, the scans I've posted here don't adequately convey the luminescence of the special papers that she's incorporated into her work. When the original pieces catch the light, they jump to life!
Kwei-lin's work stands firmly on its own, but I've decided to append brief descriptions of each character for those who aren't familiar with Pearl's films. I hope you enjoy this set as much as I do.
A very special thanks to Kwei-lin Lum for making it happen.