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“Finding our place in the noise”: interview with Yoon Ahn

On the occasion of her collaboration with UNIQLO, we exchanged a few words with the designer of AMBUSH

“Finding our place in the noise”: interview with Yoon Ahn On the occasion of her collaboration with UNIQLO, we exchanged a few words with the designer of AMBUSH

In a few years, Yoon Ahn's name became that of an authority in the fashion industry. The unique aesthetic of her striking jewels inspired by everyday objects has decreed the success of her brand AMBUSH, which has expanded over the years to the production of clothing and now has plans to expand its offer to bags and shoes. This same success led Yoon Ahn to become jewellery designer for Dior, to collaborate with Nike and, more recently, to work with UNIQLO UT on the LOVE MINNIE MOUSE by AMBUSH collection. The capsule created under the creative direction of Yoon Ahn starred the Disney character of Minnie and represents AMBUSH's desire to appeal to a wider and younger audience. 

The drop of the LOVE MINNIE MOUSE by AMBUSH collection is already available both online and in all UNIQLO stores. For the occasion of the drop, which was preceded by a dedicated event in Tokyo where the capsule was officially presented, we exchanged a few words with the designer who told us about her inspirations, her work and the role of designers on the modern fashion scene.

You were born in Korea, lived in Seattle and Boston, among the other places, and then finally moved to Tokyo. Is there a trace of the many places you’ve lived in your creations?

Yes. They are all a part of who I am today. Not literally but subconsciously. We are a product of our environment. 

What is, according to you, the element that makes a jewel unique? What do you try to communicate through your creations?

Jewellery should display your own character and personality. Whatever I output, it’s up to the wearer to coordinate however they want to express themselves.

What’s the most technically complex piece you’ve ever designed? And which piece are you most proud of?

There was a metal lunchbox bag I made a few years ago. We ended up making one piece with all hand moulding the metal with heat. That labour was an intense one.

You translated zip ties, teddy bears and paper clips into jewellery. You also said some years ago to Kinfolk that you aim to “give value to things that people overlook”. But why in your opinion those things deserve to be elevated in such a way in the first place?

It's a bit of wabi-sabi mentality. It is finding beauty in imperfection and ordinary things. Also, the works of Karlheinz Weinberger’s REBEL YOUTH to punks in the UK in the early 70s showed me that it's not money that could buy you style. Style is what you make with what you have.  I see the beauty in things we overlook. 

Uniqlo has a history of collaborations with very high-profile creatives, such as you, Mr Jun Takahashi and KAWS. What is Uniqlo LifeWear to you as a prominent designer and what do you think about the democratization of fashion?

T-shirt is the perfect canvas to reach a vast audience. You often think of fashion and design, and people often glorify the fantasy side. Still, there is a challenge of creating simple basic pieces that we need, which could seamlessly integrate into our lives. I find that space more challenging in the real world. I think the democratization of fashion is great. It gives power to consumers, not just a few elites at the top in the industry. 

Why did you choose Minnie Mouse as the central theme of your capsule? Does this character have a connection to you or your childhood?

I had a choice to pick any Disney female characters, but I knew from the moment that Minnie has to be the one. She is an icon, so I wanted to capture her in a way that has not been done before. 

You and Virgil Abloh aren’t traditionally-trained designers, yet you became two of the most admired names in the fashion scene. Do you think this fact is the symptom of a shift in the role of the designer in general, both in terms of training and expectations? And if so, how is that role changing?

Having a point of view and an ethic of working hard isn’t something school can teach you. I am not saying the school isn’t important. We live in an era where you can have a direct connection with the customers and have your own space to display and protect your work. Just work hard and output interesting things. 

Many believe that in 2020 fashion will start to move on from streetwear. How will AMBUSH face this change? 

Fashion doesn't have enough terms to describe all different types of casual wear, so the industry clumped everything together as streetwear. Casual wear will never go out of style. The world is big, and there is a vast audience that lives outside of the fashion cycle and trends. For AMBUSH, a shift in trend is not the main challenge we face. It's more about personal growth as a brand as we mature and making sure we get better season after season while finding our place in this constant flux of noise out there.