By: Enya Chi
Nowadays, fashion is all about being “hype.” Street fashion has swept into mainstream fashion trend by overtaking the old-fashioned, elite high-end fashion that only a few get to enjoy. Spurred by the rise of hip-hop culture into mainstream music, street-fashion, favored by the hip-hop artists, rose into the spotlight. Pioneering brands such as Supreme, Off-White, and Vetements sealed the popularity of street fashion while traditional fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci changed their style to fit in with the new trend.
However, another fashion line, AMBUSH® has been around for more than ten years in street fashion, taking root in 2002 in Tokyo. AMBUSH® began as an experimental line of jewelry that incorporated innovative pop art inspired by designs that captured the distinct Tokyo aesthetic. The brand was an instant hit in Asia, gaining attention especially from hip-hop artists during a time when street fashion and hip-hop was still mainly considered as underground music.
AMBUSH® is the brainchild of Korean-American designer Yoon Ahn and her partner VERBAL, a Korean-Japanese rapper. The idea started as a passion project for Yoon who was inspired by the youth culture of hip-hop during her childhood in the Seattle suburbs. With no previous experience in fashion design, Yoon, a graphic designer, and VERBAL, a rapper, started experimenting under AMBUSH® by selling gold chains, necklaces, and other accessories. Yet, as time passed, what started as a small project evolved into an international, unisex collection that sits at the intersection between international acclaim and underground endorsement.
In 2015, AMBUSH® made its Paris debut that launched the brand into global recognition. That same year VERBAL & Yoon were listed inside Business of Fashion’s Top 500 people influencing the global fashion industry, and maintained their position in 2016 and 2017 as well. 2017 also saw AMBUSH® selected as one of the top 8 finalists for the LVMH PRIZE. At the same time, AMBUSH ® was highly endorsed by musicians around the globe, including Kanye West, Rihanna, Kris Wu, BTS RM, and South Korea’s pop king G-Dragon. As of today, AMBUSH® has collaborated with a wide variety of international fashion houses that includes Louis Vuitton, sacai, UNDERCOVER, Off-White, SHU UEMURA, and Nike. AMBUSH®’s most recent collaboration is with Nike in honor of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Korean sunglasses and optical glasses brand Gentle Monster.
For Yoon, seeing success in the AMBUSH® brand is a huge accomplishment for her as a designer, because there are very few Asian women who had achieved the same level of success as her in the fashion industry, especially in the line of hippy, street-fashion and jewelry. However, to add on to her ongoing list of accomplishments, as of April 2019, Yoon was named as the head designer of men’s jewelry for Dior Homme, a branch under the esteemed Paris fashion house Dior. Her first creations for the house debuted with the S/S 2019 collection in Paris, in collaboration with the revered Dior Men’s designer Mr. Kim Jones.
The appointment for Yoon is a blessing that sealed both her status as an elite in the fashion industry, influential female Asian designer, natural Hypebeast, and her passion for jewelry and artistic creation. Yoon believes that “jewelry has no gender. It just comes down to aesthetic of the individual and how they interpret what’s feminine and masculine to them,” and that it is a form of self-expression. A wild-spirit, Yoon values “self-expression above all other reasons for wearing and creating jewelry. Rules don’t apply when it comes to people’s individual sense of style, so everyone should honor themselves and what/how they want to look.”
Following the footsteps of Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, Yoon continues to defy social standards and pave the way for herself as an Asian female in the fashion industry. Fashion is one of the most competitive and fluctuating industries in the world as new trends replace old ones with millions of young designers in the world fighting their artistic dreams in hopes that one day they would become the next “big thing.” However, the sad reality is that the fashion industry has traditionally been mostly limited to men, especially white men as both Asians and females are heavily excluded. Yet, with the changing of the social tide of diversity and equality, maybe it is time that females and Asians have a chance. Yoon is proof that Asian females can find success in the fashion world discrimination. She has battled through criticism and discrimination to show that gender and race is not an obstacle to stop her career. Her legacy and pioneering work with AMBUSH® and Dior paved the way for a new generation of young, female Asian designers who too hope to be recognized as international designers. As Yoon once said in an interview with Vogue, “I am excited to be a part of the new generation of designers who think on a more global level, who accept diversity and play with different universes all the time.”
Enya Chi is an aspiring social activist who likes to travel and appreciate the beauty of the world. She hopes to bring change to the world through her passion for social justice and love for peace. During her free time, Enya likes to go on spontaneous food trips with her friends and she enjoys eating boba, hot pot, and poke. She currently resides in Los Angeles but is originally from Hong Kong.
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