Yoon Ahn and Verbal’s stars have been on the ascendant for quite some time. Previous to the former having been appointed jewellery director for Dior in 2018, the Wunderkind designer wife and rapper husband had built a cult following with their Ambush label. Hot on the heels of yet another Converse collaboration, a reimagining of Nike’s iconic ‚Dunk‘, and a redesign of MOËT & CHANDON’S CLASSIC BOTTLE, F/W ’21 delivers a vision of ready to wear inherited from a life in lockdown.
When they launched apparel in 2015, Yoon and Verbal’s focus was still on the accessories; their collection simply served as a canvas for the jewellery on which their brand’s success was built. One would have been rightly forgiven for thinking that their clothes would always play second fiddle, rarely does a designer’s skill translate well across media. But the Tokyo based power couple are enviously immersed in their world. With names like Virgil, Nigo and Pharrell in their immediate orbit, the cross pollination of disciplines was somewhat inevitable. That their recent collections have built the kind of momentum they have is therefore both a nice surprise and somehow equally predictable. When people talk of the mingling of music, fashion and art, this is it.
Given the pop appeal of their jewellery (safety pins, bottle caps, office-ready name tags, bags inspired by plastic palettes if your imagination needs a little push), you might expect collections under the Ambush banner to be more streetwear leaning in the vein of Supreme, Off-White, et al. The similarities derived from a long term cohabiting of the same cultural space are plenty: Verbal is an established rapper and both their careers have been peppered with collaborations with the likes of BAPE and Kanye. Indeed, F/W is not without an echo of their streetwear peers, but this collection communicates a different message.
Twelve months on from a presentation in which crashed cars served as a backdrop for their work and roughly a year since the start of our current global pandemic, a Ballardian apocalypse has given way to comfort and luxury. In terms of color, the looks here are somewhat reticent: white, ecru, moss green, and black provide the base. And just in case the collection were to come across as a bit too serious, they’ve thrown in some poppier pink, yellow, orange and green for good measure. A kimono-derived formal jacket makes an appearance, as does its bright yellow puffer variant; king-size wool coats are asymmetrically cinched at the waist with an outer belt; a bright green shearling offers a hint of rebel Americana and an unassuming black slip hangs off its shoulders by a thin bespoke chain. The cuts on offer are generous in a way that connotes luxury, yes, but also the blend of cultures so crucial in understanding the designer couple: west-coast hip hop as much as Japanese wafuku. The accessories are there too: covetable pendant necklaces, boots that look like a cyborg Wellington, and Ambush’s signature thick metal chains. The classics are there and sure to fly off virtual shelves.
Comfort is the operative word here. Ambush’s DNA, much like the virus responsible for our collective shift in focus, is mutating. The brand celebrates its nascent heritage but has adapted to a world of limited social contact. These looks have been crafted for the purpose of a routine anchored by Zoom calls and weekly excursions out in the cold, 1.5m distance required. A life lived at slower pace, and mediated though a screen, in comfort.
Under the recent patronage of the New Guards Group, Ambush is no longer the stuff of rumored whispers and is ready to take its next steps. The fledgling maison is forging an identity indebted to its pop culture roots, now refined and matured. This isn’t a renunciation of their past, this is Ambush all grown up.