Yoon Ahn nibbles on a vanilla cracker in her Tokyo studio as we catch up over Zoom. Sporting a blue bomber jacket, gold hoops and a bleached-blonde high ponytail, she pinches the foil packaging with her signature long, pointed gel nails.
“I’m really sorry but I just need some sugar to perk me up in the afternoon,” she says.
Ahn has been running on adrenaline for the last several years. The co-founder of Ambush, a popular unisex streetwear brand beloved by the likes of Kanye West, she is also the director of jewellery for Kim Jones’ Dior Men. Last year alone saw the designer drop hyped collabs with Nike for the Air Max 180 sneaker and Gentle Monster for sunglasses, as well as her inaugural jewellery line for Dior Homme’s spring-summer 2019 collection.
She then made headlines in January when New Guards Group, the Milanese luxury conglomerate that backs Off-White, took a majority stake in Ambush, further solidifying its place among the world’s leading purveyors of all things cool. Ahn also happens to be one of the few women thriving in a traditionally male-dominated arena. “It’s always been very masculine because it’s about ‘living that code’,” Ahn says.
“But I believe culture is a living thing, and it can change and evolve.” While some designers might have found brief respite during the pandemic-induced lockdown, Ahn misses the jet-stream action. “I like rhythm; it’s very important to me,” she says. She bemoans the fact that her next call with Italy for sample review will still be via computer screen.
“I like to make decisions and see things in person,” she says. “I’m very tactile; I need to touch it and see it and communicate on the spot.”
See also: Kim Jones Named Artistic Director at Fendi, But He’s Not Leaving Dior
She may not have degrees in fashion or business, but the Korean-American designer possesses street cred in spades, thanks in no small part to her association with a group of formidable friends—including ASAP Rocky, whose music video LSD Ahn appeared in—who have been dubbed by the media as “Antwerp Six of the Instagram age”.
Like her peers, her best credentials come from the most intangible place—her sharp intuition. “My education came from having an antenna on at all times,” she says. “You can’t be all up in your head thinking that what you’re creating is the greatest—ego is a cancer when it comes to designing and running a business.” September saw Ahn launch another collaboration, this time reimagining Bulgari’s iconic Serpenti Forever bag.
“I’ve actually turned down a lot [of collaboration opportunities],” she says. “There are certain things I just know if it’s going to work out or not. Sometimes, even if it’s a great offer, if I can’t connect with it, I know it’s not the right one.”
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