You may not be familiar with Korean-American jewellery designer Yoon Ahn yet, but it's time to get to know her. She's kitted out everyone from Rihanna to Kanye with her slick hip-hop-inspired brand AMBUSH, the 2017 LVMH Prize finalist label she runs with her partner, the rapper Verbal. In April this year, close friend and longtime collaborator Kim Jones appointed her as Dior Homme's jewellery designer when he took the helm at the French house.
Her first collection for the brand, presented in June, saw models adorned with signet rings on every finger, monogrammed gold studs, safety pin earrings, and a street-inspired refresh of Dior's signature bee. With a roster of fans including Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian West, Skepta, A$AP Rocky, and Kate Moss, it's fair to say the industry has fallen for the designer.
We caught up with her to see which pieces of jewellery she can't leave the house without, how she first met Kim Jones, and where she draws her inspiration from.
Hey Yoon! Tell us about how you first got into the fashion industry...
I didn’t go to fashion school, and hadn't worked in fashion before. Verbal needed jewellery for his stage outfits, but we couldn’t find what we wanted in the existing market, so we started to design it ourselves through a few jewellery makers we had met in Tokyo. We started off with 18KG fine jewellery, but from those special pieces we went on to make small POW! rings and pendants for ourselves and to give out to friends - the rest is history.
And from there AMBUSH was born?
We were making a few pieces for fun, and fun can only last so long. There is a point when you have to really decide if you can take this further or not. Around 2012, we started to put proper collections out, so I personally think this is when we kicked off properly as a brand. I feel like everyday has been like being in a school since then. Everything was learned on the job.
It's not as hard as people make it out to be. I think it's because we're both are clear about what we're doing for the company and know each others strength and weaknesses, so its easier to work it all out.
You've dressed some of the biggest names in the fashion and entertainment industry - what do you think draws them to the brand?
I think the boldness and uniqueness of it speaks to them. Actually, I would like to know too! I think they just liked it and wore it.
Is there anyone you'd love to see wearing AMBUSH?
I just love people who are comfortable in their skin. They are the ones who embrace the style in their own way. If I could dress anyone it would be Cindy Sherman. It would amazing to see how she interprets the pieces into her work. Also, I would love to design custom pieces for characters in a sci-fi movie one day.
You're known for your raw aesthetic, from padlocks and chains to safety pins and crystals - where do you find the inspiration for these details?
In everything – from the spirit of punk to tribal adornment. The ethos of D.I.Y in rebellious youth culture. They all have a sincere rawness in self-expression that really inspires me. Jewellery doesn’t have to be about status. Jewellery should be extension of self-expression.
How did you first meet Kim Jones?
We have known each other for over a decade, before his turns at Dunhill and Louis Vuitton. We first met in Tokyo through Kanye, backstage at a Teriyaki Boyz gig, when Kim was working with him on his Pastelle clothing line.
What do you like about him?
He is a designer’s designer. I always had so much respect for him and have learned a lot from him. It's so wonderful that we can finally work together.
And what about Dior?
It's the one of the oldest and best couture house in the world. The richness in its heritage and archives are just out of this world. It's a huge honour for me to be there.
Your first Dior Homme collection in June was beautiful - what did you want to do with your debut for the brand?
It was so beautiful and elegant! Of course the pieces compliment the clothes, but more than that, I wanted to be bring the couture side to the jewellery, but also make it wearable for both men and women. Pieces you would wear whether you're dressing up or down. I think that’s really modern way of dressing.
What kind of jewellery do you personally like to wear?
My own AMBUSH pieces mixed with vintage, and now Dior Homme pieces of course! I couldn't go without short necklaces, earrings and rings.
What are you excited about right now?
There's so much more to life outside of fashion! Right now, I'm kind of obsessed with A.I, Androids and Humanoids. It's only matter of time and technology development before they catch up with - or even become smarter - than us. It's made me question: if they become more human than humans, what ultimately makes us us? Something to think about...
What's next for you?
There so many fun things lined up next few months. AMBUSH has a joint pop-up with Amazon coming up, and our first Nike collaboration is debuting in December!