AMBUSH has become one of the most known brands to come out of the Japanese streetwear movement, now having established itself as a force in the fashion industry. Originally founded by Yoon Ahn and her partner Verbal, the brand had seen its jewellery designs on just about anyone that is someone, including Jay Z, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
By 2015, the hype around the brand was no longer only shared within the realms of streetwear – high fashion wanted a piece of AMBUSH. Ahn led the way as creative director and started the AMBUSH clothing line, which was heavily influenced by the Tokyo fashion scene, which would be home to its first flagship store just a year later. Now showing alongside the Fashion Week seasonal calendar, AMBUSH is no longer known as just a jewellery brand but rather a multi-disciplinary cross between accessories, fashion and sneakers. Keep reading to find out all about AMBUSH’s evolution and its key moments.
A GOD-SENT MEETING THAT WENT TO TOKYO
While Ahn was studying graphic design at Boston University in the late 90s, she met her future-partner and Japanese rapper Verbal at church. Together, the two would create the Ambush Design Company, a creative organisation that would design Verbal’s band the Teriyaki Boyz’ album covers. By 2003, the pair decided to move to Tokyo, which at the time was incubating the massive movement of Japanese streetwear, with BAPE coming up and Japan’s love for American vintage-wear. A year later Antonio Murphy & Astro was born, a jewellery line for which Ahn and Verbal would create 90s hip hop Slick Rick-inspired heavy chains. It was not before 2008 that the AMBUSH brand would officially be created, but by then Ahn and her partner had already established herself within the fashion industry, with the support of big names such as Pharrell and Ye notably wearing AMBUSH’s “POW!” pendant – a design that still remains iconic to the brand today.
AND WITH PARIS COMES FASHION
Gaining recognition for her jewellery from big names such as Kim Jones and Virgil Abloh, Ahn decided to venture into an apparel line that felt like a clear continuation from the accessories – it’s bold, cutting-edge, unisex and is heavily inspired by Japanese streetwear. By 2015 Ahn made the move to Paris and launched the first ready-to-wear line for AMBUSH, which was “ a canvas for the jewellery”. By 2017, AMBUSH had received a LVMH Prize nomination and Yoon Ahn was named Dior Homme’s jewellery designer with a collaborative collection with Kim Jones for the SS19 collection. What started as a streetwear jewellery brand had now found itself in the realm of high fashion.
Whether it’s for her jewellery or clothing designs, Ahn is known for her bold and chunky designs, such as on a three-finger gold chain-like ring or the UNDERCOVER x AMBUSH pearl necklace which featured too many different-sized pearls to count. Her use of metal also continues in her accessories, notably the Nobu can bag. Padlocks have also been a key component to the brand, seen on chokers and earrings, in its regular shape and a heart shape. Whether it be mushroom, lighter cases or toy-bunny pendants, AMBUSH always finds a playful way around its bling.
A key component of AMBUSH is its heavy lean on collaborations, especially considering its come up with other established brands and artists within fashion. One of the very first collaborations the jewellery brand embarked on was with NIGO’s BAPE back in 2009 on a jewellery and footwear line titled “Strange Beasts”, which included Baby Milo rings and a Bape head necklace. Though what makes AMBUSH a pop-culture phenomenon is its collaborations that span outside fashion, including a team up with Beast by Dre. in 2020, creating glow-in-the-dark headphones, as well as a collaboration with NBA alongside Ahn’s ongoing partnership with Nike, when she became the first female designer to collaborate with the basketball association.
THE POWER OF FOOTWEAR
A big part of the AMBUSH impact has to do with its involvement in the sneaker community. In 2012, the brand collaborated with Reebok to create the Pump Fury HLS initially in a white and silver, and a black and silver colourway, and later in metallic red and blue iterations. Then in 2019, Converse turned to the Japanese-born brand to revisit the Chuck 70 and Pro Leather shoes which featured waterproof rubber and the chevron logo. Though perhaps AMBUSH’s most notorious collab was with Nike, a long-lasting love affair that started in 2018 creating a futuristic boot based on the Air Max 180. Many pairs later, the ongoing partnership is still going strong, with the latest release being the Dunk High in black. With the staggering success of this partnership, we’re sure there’s going to be many more AMBUSH x Nike pairs to come in the future.
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