Barbie dolls (l-r) in the likeness of Elizabeth Taylor,
Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe are displayed in collector
Jian Yang's home in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su
The white exterior and spartan grey staircase of Jian
Yang's tidy rowhouse give no hint of the shock that lies within
- a pink living room floor and his collection of more than 6000
The 33-year-old Singaporean favours minimalist decor but the
Barbies and 3000 dolls of other kinds dominate three sides of
the main room and spill over to fill nine mirrored cabinets
in his dressing room and the shelves of his study.
"Incongruous is kind of me," Yang told Reuters. "When you
meet me outside of this, I'm not that kind of guy. I'm not
what you expect from a guy that collects dolls."
Yang has a professional interest in toys and consumer trends
as director of strategy at Omicom Media Group. But his Barbie
collection began at age 13 when he bought the "Great Shape"
model in a turquoise Spandex gym outfit and striped leg
"Before I knew anything about social norms, I was a boy that
watched this on TV, liked it and wasn't allowed to have one,"
he said. "As I grew older, got my own allowance, that's where
I started getting the freedom to buy whatever I wanted."
His boyhood interest turned into a "crazy obsession" that his
friends support and his family has come to accept.
"I'm very into collections, I'm very into amassing," Yang
said. "I've also got the ex-girlfriends who get insecure
about this kind of stuff ... They look at dolls and go 'OK,
that's the competition', which is quite troubling but it's a
The self-described "toy nerd" reckons he has spent at least
S$500,000 ($392,000) over the last 20 years on his
collection, which also features hundreds and hundreds of
dolls from the Bratz Girls, Monster High and Jem and the
"UGLY IS HOT"
Barbie, launched in 1959 wearing a zebra-pattern swimsuit,
has sold more than 1 billion dolls. But for Mattel Inc, the
toy giant that makes her, sales of the dolls and related
products fell 12 percent in the April to June period of this
year - the fourth straight quarter of decline - as tastes
Yang said Barbie was an icon that still had a future but "the
relevance is waning" as princesses and ballerinas give way to
the ghoulish imagery and stories popularised by vampire
movies such as "Twilight" and "New Moon".
"That's where Mattel has taken it," he said. "They have taken
the craze of ugly is hot and made Monster High because they
know Barbie will never be the monster."
Hasbro Inc, Mattel's main competitor and a client of Yang's
in his work, has made similar changes to its dolls.
Yang's oldest Barbies date from the early 1960s, including
one in a nurse's outfit with cat's eye glasses. But his
passion runs the gamut of eras and styles, including Barbies
in dozens of national costumes and editions with the
likenesses of Grace Kelly, Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett
and Elizabeth Taylor.
The rarest Barbie he owns is a model sold only in boutiques
of the Comme des Garcons fashion label. "My friend found her
in Hong Kong and made an emergency phone call to me," he
In a floor-to-ceiling glass case in the living room, Osama
bin Laden shares a drink with Saddam Hussein as Maleficent,
the evil sorceress from "Sleeping Beauty", Jackie Onassis and
Lady Diana look on. Elsewhere are Elvis Presley, Sean Connery
as James Bond and characters from "Harry Potter" and "Star
To top it off, the hue of the floor is not just any pink. It
is Barbie's signature colour - Pantone 219 C.
"I travel for work, I travel for myself, so I find dolls
everywhere," Yang said.
On his last trip to New York, he bought 65 dolls. He is going
there again this month and is sure to hit the shops. Yang
also get dolls as gifts and buys them at auction and online.
He has no plans to slow down, so what will he do when he runs
out of space?
"I'll buy the other house," he laughed, pointing next door.
"I still have an empty wall over there."