Zelda, and video games in general, inspire creativity in many people. Such creativity can be found in talented people such as Li Kovacs, who excels in cosplay and creates spectacular costumes based on video games and anime. While the community is full of incredibly talented cosplayers, some go above and beyond to create very accurate interpretations of gaming icons, such as Link.
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Li Kovacs about what inspired her to create costumes, what she enjoys about Zelda and Nintendo, and what has kept her coming back for more Zelda goodness over the years. We also touched up on media unrelated to Nintendo and what inspires her with other costume designs, such as anime characters. Check out the Zelda franchise through the eyes of costume designer, Li Kovacs!
First off, thank you for joining me today Li Kovacs! I must say that your costume designs are absolutely terrific. I suppose we should start with how you’ve become so talented with costumes. How did you get into costumes and design?
: Thanks for having me! It started when I was really young and I wanted to do something different for Halloween but there were never any good costumes to get, so I decided to make my own and I made Link. Once I did that, I realized that I could do this every year for Halloween so instead of making a new character each year, I just revised the Link costume to make it better. Then it evolved into wanting to make them for anytime of the year and just take pictures of myself as Link in appropriate settings.
Why did you decide to make a Link costume specificially?
The Legend of Zelda has been my all-time favorite series since the beginning of time and Link was my all-time favorite character. I grew up with the series and with Link, and as a little kid he always felt like a best friend to me. I loved going on adventures and pretending to fight monsters and save kingdoms.
Fair enough. Now you have costumes of many Nintendo characters, ranging from Zelda to Mario. What inspired you to go outside the Zelda franchise and into general Nintendo costumes?
Well I always loved Nintendo as a whole. I’ve been collecting products since I was little and I started to build up my experience points in costume making so I can branch out and tackle the more complex characters that I loved. It also helped that my parents were supportive of the whole costuming thing and they thought it was really neat so they were also my motivation to keep moving forward.
What are some of the other Nintendo characters you have made costumes for?
I’ve made Mario, and plan on making a Luigi version as well, Goddess and regular Zelda from Skyward Sword, Prince Marth from Super Smash Bros Melee, Pit from Kid Icarus Uprising, Wonder Red from Wonderful 101, Bike Suit Rosalina from Mario Kart 8, a few other supporting Zelda characters — Princess Hilda from A Link Between Worlds, Zelda from Hyrule Warriors and of course the many variations of Link including Magic Armor, Fierce Deity Link, Zora Link and more. I am planning on many others for the future, but I might also be missing some from that list. [laughs]
What has made you so determined to make Nintendo character costumes over other costumes from other companies and franchises?
Well, I have made over 50 costumes ranging from various Anime, movies and other video games. I only make costumes of characters that I find very memorable and I feel that I keep coming back to Nintendo characters because they have always been the most memorable to me.
What do you believe makes Nintendo characters unique compared to other characters you’ve made costumes for?
Nintendo’s characters have a lot of history and personality to them. I got very attached to these characters when I was younger and even now as I’m older the characters, like Link, continue to develop and grow with us. The nice thing about them as well is that they can mean so many different things to different people, which is probably why they appeal to such a broad range of audiences.
How were you originally introduced to Nintendo and The Legend of Zelda franchise?
Zelda and the NES have always been part of my earliest childhood memories. I remember playing with the NES at a family friend’s house and I remember then getting one for christmas. Zelda was one of the games my parents picked up for me and my brother. The whole family played together. I have always felt that Link and Zelda have always been with me for my entire life.
What would you say is most difficult about creating such elaborate costumes?
I have found that the most difficult part is accuracy. Whenever I create a costume I always want to make them as accurate as possible and bring them to life to best of my abilities. Having to recreate 2D and computer generated images requires a lot of research and experimentation to get everything right.
Despite the work that goes into it, what do you enjoy most about creating and wearing costumes and what do you find to be the most rewarding?
Finishing the costume is definitely rewarding but above that is that I am able to give life to a character that I am passionate about. Creating the costume and seeing my work in front of me is a huge sense of accomplishment. Even more rewarding is getting the recognition from others for my work. I am my worst critic but it’s great when people enjoy what I create.
You’ve done several costumes and appearances for different events in the past. What are some events you’ve attended with your costumes and what did you enjoy about the events?
My favorite part of going to events/cons is the community aspect. It has always been an incredibly friendly environment. It was easy to identify people who shared the same interest as you. I started getting invited internationally around 2005. This was great because I was able to experience the communities outside of the US. It is great meeting people from all over the world. Then in 2006 I started doing professional work at conventions like PAX Prime, and GDC and special events like game launches. The great thing about that was that I was given the opportunity to represent a brand and games that I really enjoy.
Are there any upcoming events or cons you plan on attending?
At the moment it would be the local cons in my area such as Emerald City Comic Con, Sakura Con and PAX Prime. I have received a few international invites that are in the works so stay tuned for that. I just love going to conventions and events so I’m always up to going to any convention that I can go or get invited to.
“I love making costumes. I love bringing characters to life through them.”
Earlier you mentioned that The Legend of Zelda is your favorite series since the beginning of time. What would you say has made the franchise your favorite?
Growing up I always associated with Link’s hero journey. It’s silly but the things I went through in my childhood I always associated them to his adventures. Link had to go through lots of challenges in his life or many lives. I felt that growing up I too was on my own hero’s journey and I always felt that if Link can get through this I can too. I was always there for him and he was always there for me too.
What has kept you interested in the franchise and the numerous games in the series?
I’m always excited to see how Eiji Aonuma and Nintendo are growing the franchise. I like how they are constantly expanding the mythos and the characters. With a game like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds they gave us such great characters like Princes Hilda and introduced us to Lorule. With Skyward Sword they gave us more insight into the history of the franchise. I just love the story and am really excited to see how the upcoming Wii U game will expand on it.
Many guests on Zelda Universe have praised A Link Between Worlds as an amazing game. How do you believe the game compares to other Zelda games?
I found A Link Between Worlds to be special because of the story and the characters. I loved Princess Hilda and what she was going through. I loved how the events in the story played out. I don’t want to give any spoilers but Hilda’s intentions as well as Ravio’s brought me back to games like Majora’s Mask and the personal turmoil that the characters in that game were dealing with. I was very emotionally attached to the game. I also really want to see and learn more about Lorule and how it compares to Hyrule.
As awesome as A Link Between Worlds is, what would you say is your favorite Zelda game of all time?
I try to judge every Zelda game separately so I don’t have a favorite. Each game is unique and special. I love in Skyward Sword how you are able to see Link and Zelda before they were the Hero and the Princess and get to know the backstory of the franchise. I love the deep, dark emotional elements in Majora’s Mask. I love in Link’s Awakening the connection that the player has with Link and the totally crazy and uncertain ending. I love the style of the Toon Link games like Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass because they are able to give a new dimension to the franchise without watering it down. It’s actually hard to pick a favorite after playing all of them since the very first one to now.
I would argue that Nintendo did water down Wind Waker, with a whole ocean. Heh. Well, what do you look forward to most in Zelda U?
As always the story is what I look forward to in the new Zelda Wii U game. As an open world game this lets me do what I love to the most which is exploring. I’m also really excited to see where in the timeline this game takes place. I’m also extremely excited to make the costumes in that game. I imagine that the new Zelda Wii U will keep me very busy.
Zelda U aside, what do like overall about the Nintendo Wii U?
I’m really enjoying all the games like Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, Captain Toad and Mario Kart 8. Nintendo console’s have always been part of my life and their approach to gaming and the quality of their games have always been dear to me. As a gamer I play all types of games and consoles but Nintendo games and consoles are a part of my heart. The Wii U is a fun system with a lot of great games.
You are a very devoted Zelda fan, so why would you recommend gamers check out the franchise if they haven’t played a Zelda game before?
Zelda games are easy to get into and the story is relatable to anyone. That is the beauty of the way the games are crafted. There is a reason why the games have endured almost 30 years. The franchise has millions of fans and many devoted websites like Zelda Universe. The characters and stories are timeless. Through all the different hardware and advances in technology the franchise just keeps getting better and better. I can imagine one day having kids and introducing the games to them the same way they were introduced to me.
What advice do you have for those who would like to start making costumes for events and for fun?
My advice to anyone wanting to get into costuming would be to concentrate on something you are passionate about. Don’t worry if things don’t turn out as planned in the beginning. It takes time and practice to get good. It’s all about trial and error no matter what skill level you are. So never give up. Always keep your mind open and always be willing to learn. And above all have fun doing it. Having fun is what really matters.
You’ve made costumes for several iterations of Link and Zelda. What iterations were most enjoyable to make and take pictures for?
Twilight Princess Link was really enjoyable but really time consuming because I handmade Link’s chainmail shirt which took six months. The end result and experience of that costume was really gratifying. At first I was really nervous to make my recent Hyrule Warriors Zelda costume. I had only done one other Zelda costume which was Goddess Zelda from Skyward Sword. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do the princess justice. I’m used to doing and being Link and not Zelda. The costume was also very intricate and I wanted to capture the details and make it as real as possible. I was exalted when I completed the costume. I didn’t think it would turn out the way it did. This was the same for my Princess Hilda costume. I really loved the way that one turned out and I really love the way all three of these come out in pictures. I try my best to bring these characters to life and thrilled that I am able to be part of this.
“Having fun is what really matters.”
Finally, is there anything you’d like to add about your work with costumes or love of the Zelda franchise?
I love making costumes. I love bringing characters to life through them. It is my art, it is my passion. Even though the hobby is mainly about having fun, like any other artist I’m a perfectionist and will tirelessly work to make the best costume I can. I expect to be making costume till I’m old and gray. I am humbled that I have been given the opportunity to work with Nintendo to bring both my art and my favorite series together and make it real. I love the Zelda franchise and look forward to all the wonderful experiences, memories and costumes that it will continue to bring me.
Thank you Li Kovacs for taking the time to answer our questions!
Be sure to check out Li Kovacs online on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and by taking a look at her work over on her Official Site! As we’ve already said, she makes amazing costumes, some of which may inspire you to become a designer as well! If nothing else, you’ll be impressed by her fantastic work! Kudos Li Kovacs!