YOON AHN IS SOMETHING OF A GENERATIONAL DEFINER WITH A FIRM PLACE IN BOTH THE INTENSELY MASCULINE WORLD OF STREETWEAR AS CO-FOUNDER OF THE LABEL AMBUSH AND THE HISTORICALLY BOURGEOIS REALM OF HIGH FASHION AS JEWELLERY DIRECTOR AT DIOR HOMME. NOW, SHE’S TEAMED UP WITH BVLGARI ON A REINTERPRETATION OF ITS SIGNATURE SERPENTI FOREVER HANDBAG. GORDON NG PROBES THIS EXTREMELY IN-DEMAND CREATIVE’S MIND ON THE FUTURE OF COLLABORATIONS AND BUILDING A BUSINESS ON HYPE.
It’s an understatement to say the fashion industry today is in constant flux. Already pre-pandemic, the whole top-down system of luxury fashion has had its dominance challenged by the prominence of streetwear and the emergence of a new generation of creative leaders. Yoon Ahn (opposite) is one such name.
Though originally trained in graphic design, the Korean-American has moved seamlessly into creating jewellery and fashion for Ambush – the label she founded 12 years ago and still leads – in addition to designing the jewellery for Kim Jones’ men’s collections at Dior (a role she’s had since 2018). She’s got her finger on the pulse of both culture and taste, commanding a fiercely loyal Instagram following as well as the eager eyes of an industry ready to tap into her preternaturally cool sensibilities.
Bvlgari has called on her to collaborate on a capsule collection called Serpenti Through The Eyes Of Ambush – a reinterpretion of its popular handbag featuring its iconic snake motif that hits stores this month. If you know the Italian luxury jeweller, you’ll know that the Serpenti is one of its most beloved and closely guarded symbols. Applied across a range of products spanning jewellery to sunglasses, its history is marked as much by glamour – famously aligned with Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra – as it is by technical innovation (cue the Tubogas technique that gives Serpenti timepieces their sinuous form).
What Yoon has come up with is a deliciously sensual and striking range of accessories under the brand’s Serpenti Forever line of leather goods. Each style – from shoulder bags to coin purses – is softened by rounded, almost pillowy curves while emboldened by vivid hues inspired by South-east Asian tree pythons. Their distinct snakehead closures are wrapped in the same shade of nappa leather, which Yoon says make them look “more adorable” though a more appropriate description might be fun and hypermodern.
It’s this intuitive sense of where old and new sit and most productively meet that makes Yoon’s designs energising and exciting. The cushy belt bag and candy-like minaudiere from the collection might bring to mind a younger, more casual customer, but the details and colours she’s worked in all draw from Bvlgari’s reputation as a leading name when it comes to precious stones in dazzling hues. (The partnership started with a tour of the brand’s headquarters in Rome and studios in Florence where she got a deeper understanding of its history and craftsmanship, Yoon reveals.)
True to her multi-hyphenate, multi-brand-traversing nature, she sees such tie-ups as a catalyst for “great ideas” that should extend beyond fashion and instead cut across various industries – and they shouldn’t mean compromising on one’s personal ethos. Says Yoon of her vision: “Bvlgari’s heritage and what Ambush is founded on are from completely different worlds. My definition of glamour is rooted in real women on the street, living, creating and being fully themselves in the most real way.” On the next page, more words of wisdom and empowerment from this much-hyped-about (and rightfully so) guru.
The various styles in this limited editon collection – an everyday shoulder bag, versatile belt bag, evening minaudiere as well as accessories such as card cases, coin holders and a wraparound bracelet – are crafted from supple nappa leather, including their snakehead closures that are sheathed in the same material. The heads themselves are finished with eyes in mother-of-pearl or black onyx while chunky metallic details underscore Yoon’s signature edge.
YOON AHN ON... BEING A WOMAN IN THE STREETWEAR BUSINESS
“People assume that because I do more aggressive design, I must not have a feminine side. Listen, I’m a female with many different outlooks and ideas, and I fully enjoy being a woman.”
BEING A CREATIVE CHAMELEON
“I’ve always been on the side of creators who continuously change and morph, and not just stick to one specific aesthetic. I quite enjoy that side of living. It fuels my life.”
THE INFLUENCE OF HYPE CULTURE AND STREETWEAR
“Times have changed. Consumers want something more real that they can relate to. Old stories don’t speak to them.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF LUXURY TODAY
“It’s hard to say, to be honest. We’re seeking answers to questions that are continuously changing. One thing’s for sure though: People seek consistency and luxury houses will continue to provide this to them.”
WHAT SHE HOPES TO SEE NEXT IN FASHION
“I would like to see Asia lead culture through creativity, not just consumerism