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The story behind AMBUSH founder Yoon Ahn

March 8, 2023 3:48 PM
The story behind AMBUSH founder Yoon Ahn

It is impossible to imagine the sneaker scene today without the AMBUSH brand. The brand was founded by Yoon Ahn, a female designer from Tokyo. With her sleek designs and modern-looking designs, she has made her name inside and outside the sneaker scene and has big plans for the next years.

Yoon Ahn

Yoon Ahn Ambush
Image Hiroshi Manaka

Yoon Ahn, born in South Korea, raised in Boston, and later living in Tokyo, has a broad resume. At a young age, she left for Tokyo to establish her own brand there. Without knowing the language, she moved to the metropolis and found her own way in combining streetwear and high-end fashion with AMBUSH.

Before the birth of her own brand, AMBUSH, Yoon Ahn worked as a jewelry designer. With eye-catching and hip-hop-inspired jewelry, her name quickly became a household name, and her work caught the eye of artists such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. After entering the hip-hop scene with her jewelry, things went fast and in 2008, together with Japanese rapper Verbal, she founded AMBUSH.

Image Yoon Ahn

Under the name AMBUSH, Ahn released unique, high-end jewelry. The jewelry had a 90s vibe and combined hip-hop culture with Japanese minimalism. Demand for her jewelry increased, and Ahn's work was also noticed by major brands. After her Paris Fashion Week debut in 2015 and an LVMH nomination in 2017, Ahn was appointed Jewelry director at Dior Men by Kim Jones in 2018.


Since its founding in 2008, AMBUSH has done a lot. In addition to jewelry, Ahn now also focuses on clothing, and the brand comes up with unique, modern designs. In particular, the POW® motif, which appeared on rings and necklaces, went fast and is characteristic of the brand. Rapper Kanye West, now Ye, and ASAP Rocky, among others, were seen wearing this jewelry.

In 2016, AMBUSH's first flagship store opened in Tokyo. The store embraces the ethos of the brand in a creative environment under one roof with the design studio. Since the opening of the first store in Tokyo, AMBUSH now has several pop-up stores around the world.

Image Kozo Takayama

The AMBUSH brand combines streetwear with high-end fashion. Ahn is at home in different cultures and has lived and worked in several countries in and around Asia. With Tokyo as her home base, she has had to deal with various prejudices outside the metropolis.

In an interview with Jing Daily (2022), she expresses her experience of working in various places and talks about the work ethics in countries such as China and Japan. As a designer from Asia, she experiences that people outside the continent see the countries of China and Japan primarily as places that consume, rather than create.

“We create beauty, but it’s still business in the end", Ahn says. "It’s important for designers like me to find joy in this endless cycle of things to churn out, and have an understanding of where the world is growing and going as a social place" (Jing Daily, 2022).

It's a men's world

AMBUSH's great success did not come out of the blue. The South Korean designer has lived in many different places in her life, and this sometimes made it difficult for Ahn to adapt easily. In addition, the designer notices that women still face certain prejudices, she says in an interview with Ssense (2018);

“Sometimes, when people don't know you, they judge you by what you post, and how you seem to appear. That's why you also need to understand that surface is surface", Ahn says. "I might look a certain way on social media. I'm a girl, at the end of the day, and I like to have long weaves and wear lipstick, but I make sure I work my ass off, and my results are there."

Here, her South Korean roots play a big role, and Ahn grew up being taught to work for her money. After graduating from Boston University, she joined NIGO® and designed the women's collection for Billionaires Boys Club, a small branch of the company with small room for change.

In 2010, she worked for BAPE and here, too, the designer noticed that there was not much room for female input. When her idea for a BAPE bikini was rejected as being "too sexy", she took matters into her own hands and launched her first AMBUSH collection in 2015. The rest is history.


AMBUSH has become a big name within streetwear and sneaker culture in recent years. In recent years, the brand has collaborated with Nike, Reese's Puffs, Levi's, and Beats. In late 2022, Ahn came out with the AMBUSH x Nike Air Force 1 Low SP, and on March 9, 2023, the collaboration will receive two new colorways; 'Phantom' and 'Black'.

Yoon Ahn AMBUSH x Nike
Image Aidan Zamiri

In addition to its focus on streetwear and sneakers, the brand stays close to its roots. AMBUSH's jewelry line continues to expand with a focus on streetwear-inspired pieces. For now, Yoon Ahn is not done with AMBUSH, and we can expect much from her in the future. During Paris Fashion Week in February 2023, the designer showed her upcoming collection inspired by the grunge style of the 1990s.

Keep an eye on our news page for the latest updates surrounding AMBUSH and other WMNS initiatives. Also, don't forget the release of the AMBUSH x Nike Air Force 1 'Phantom' and 'Black' on March 9, 2023.