Yoon Ahn is Defining Cool Jewelry for a Generation
The American-Korean jewelry designer Yoon Ahn is one half of the creative duo behind AMBUSH, which she heads up with professional and personal partner Verbal. Yoon is now at the helm of the Dior Homme jewelry line under friend and longtime collaborator Kim Jones. Her signature approach to design plays on the power of proportions and seeks its inspiration in 90s-Japanese street culture and has seen her gain a suitably fashionable following that includes Kanye West, Skepta and Virgil Abloh.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.
You were recently appointed Dior Homme’s new jewelry designer, now under Kim Jones. When did Jones approach you to work together again?
Kim always talked about working on something together, but he approached me again after his departure from Vuitton.
You are collaborating on Jones’ first collection for the label. What has it been like working together in Paris after Louis Vuitton?
It is a super exciting time for Dior Homme with a new creative director and a new direction. Also, I have never worked at a big house before, so every time is a learning experience.
Have you altered your design process for your Dior collection?
Design process is obviously different than how I do for AMBUSH because there are more people involved. It is teamwork with time split across the globe. However, my approach to creativity is the same as for AMBUSH.
What does Dior Homme mean to you?
I envision Dior Homme boys as who are smart, elegant, street savvy and rich culturally. I would like to design jewelry to embody this world at the world’s best couture house.
Where did you seek out your inspiration for SS’19 WAVES?
It was inspired by a recent trip to Big Hawaii. I used to live in Oahu when I was little, so I have a huge affection towards the islands. I wanted to capture the beauty of relaxed and spiritual flowy vibe.
“I WANT AMBUSH TO EVOLVE WITH ME. AS FOR DIOR, I WANT IT TO COMBINE SOMETHING NEW AND ELEMENTS FROM ITS HERITAGE” – YOON AHN
How do you see the brand’s jewelry collection evolving in the coming seasons?
I want AMBUSH to evolve with me as I grow as a designer. As for Dior, it is a house with a rich history. I want it to combine something new and elements from its heritage.
You are still at the helm of your own brand. How has it been balancing the two?
It is about time management, but I have always been an organized person so it’s been smooth.
How did you first get into jewelry design?
I started making few pieces for fun for me and Verbal to wear a few years ago, but it was with one of the fine jewelry pieces. From there, we made pow! chains and rings to give out to friends and the rest is history.
Do you have any other jewelry designers whose work you admire?
Victoire de Castellane, from Dior Fine Jewelry, is one of my idols.
But I usually get inspired by people from diverse walks of life because I would like to approach from different angles than tradition. They could range from architects to musicians, to nameless people in pictures, to mother nature…
AMBUSH recently started creating its own clothing. Why did you decide to expand from jewelry?
We needed apparel for the lookbooks to completely control images. So, we started with few tops as canvas for the jewelry. It started to grow into denims and more pieces when AMBUSH started to introduce silver jewelry back in 2015.
You’re Korean-born, lived in the US and now you are based primarily in Tokyo. Why did you decide to make the move?
While I was debating where to move to work earlier in my career, Verbal told me to try out Tokyo.
Never thought I would be living back in Asia, but it is now my home for a decade.
How has relocating affected your brand both practically and aesthetically?
Japan definitely taught me to develop a different eye to details. Also, this place is very great to young creatives and brands because people embrace new things.
As a woman, how is it working in Tokyo from the US?
Generally, I think, we [women] go through similar struggles and issues regardless of where we are in the world. So far it’s been great. It took a bit as a foreign woman to live here, but I’m blessed to have met all the wonderful people I have on my team.
Your work has seen you short-listed for the LVMH prize, how did it feel to be nominated?
AMBUSH was top-8 finalist for LVMH Prize 2017. It was an honor to introduce my work to all the designers I have admired for ages like Karl Lagerfeld and Phoebe Philo. It definitely put us on the map for wider bu- yers and media.
Rihanna and Kanye West have all worn your designs. Is there anybody you would love to dress from head to toe in AMBUSH?
I would love to make costumes for movie roles. Something sci-fi would be amazing!
Other than your prize nominations and celebrity following, what has been your proudest moment at AMBUSH?
Starting the label out of nothing with no education in fashion or business. Building this brand with my two hands in a foreign country where I couldn’t even speak the language in the beginning.
Every step of the way has been self-satisfaction to me and our team.
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