Art deal brings Koorabbee rabbits to Australia

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Sophia Zhao being interviewed by Amy Lyons, the host of documentary Charming China in her office in Beijing. Photo: Sydney Motion Ltd

Chinese artist Sophia Zhao has signed a deal that gives the Australian rights to her trendy Koorabbee rabbits to Sydney Motion Ltd founder Emma Wang.

Zhao founded Koorabbee, an independent art label that focuses on the rabbit as a symbol of modern life, in September 2020.

“I’m always looking for an easy and popular way to explore fashion, tell stories, and promote traditional cultures,” Zhao said.

She said Koorabbee, a play on the English words “cool rabbit,” characters had long ears, an exaggerated mouth and a tail in the shape of a heart.

Zhao uses her art to smash social barriers with the Koorabbee’s Play Time collection featuring bunnies in lingerie and bondage dress designed to break taboos around sex and bring it out into the public.

“Sex is beautiful and pleasurable,” she said. “Just like those other things in our lives that are full of positive energy.”

Koorabbee Art Exhibition in 798 Art Zone, Beijing. Photo: Sydney Motion Ltd

Zhao has collaborated with a number of leading Chinese trendy brands in the past two years, including clothing brand HLA and CHINA POST.

Jumping on China’s frisbee craze, Zhao has also created designs for frisbee brand xcomsports, and a children’s picture book based on the Koorabbee rabbit will soon be available in Sydney, in both Chinese and English.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Koorabbee hard with Zhao losing $3 million RMB in one night when an exhibition at two well-known Shanghai landmarks were cancelled due to a sudden lockdown in early 2022.

The harsh lockdown rules saw people drawn to outdoor sports and this resulted in Zhao working with the frisbee label, xcomsports, and she is looking for similar opportunities in Sydney.

“I have noticed that there are skateparks in many parts of Sydney,” she said. “Working with local skateboard brands will be in our plans.”

Zhao’s work fuses Eastern and Western cultures and represents both her Chinese heritage and her time in Australia, where she studied English at the University of Sydney while working with a local creative design team in 2019.

“I met many local artists in Sydney and other artists from many other countries,” she said. “Talking to them has inspired me to create my work from a more relaxed and lived-in perspective.”

Customers painting at the Koorabbee Art Exhibition in BE Xintiandi, Shanghai. Photo: Sydney Motion Ltd

The artist has launched a series of collections with different cultural connotations, including the Chinoiserie collection that won the first prize in China’s 14th Creative Design Competition and the Tea Costume collection exhibited in France in 2021.

There are even ceramic pieces that allow the consumer to paint their own creations onto the Koorabbee bunny.

Miss Wang said her decision to purchase the Australian rights to Koorabbee was based on the fact the bunnies had universal appeal, they were non-binary and represented the diversity that Sydney prides itself on.

Sydney Motion founder Wang is now liaising with the Sydney City Council and local property developers to secure the rights to build Koorabbee sculptures at a number of landmarks.

“Next year is the Year of the Rabbit,” Wang said. “We think this is a great opportunity to let more people know us.

“We would like to set up a sculpture in front of Chinatown in the heart of Sydney.”

Ariel Bian is studying a Master of Media Practice degree at the University of Sydney, and has completed her undergraduate degree of media studies at the Massey University, New Zealand. She loves to travel and has a passion for exploring different cultures around the world.