Yoon Ahn on the Future With Nike

courtesy of nike

Women’s collaborators in the sneakersphere are turning up the heat and among those leading the charge is Yoon Ahn. While driving her own brand AMBUSH, Ahn is also one of Nike’s most prolific and foremost collaborators in the space, curating her own unique takes on beloved silhouettes like the Air More Uptempo and the Air Force 1. Ahn’s influence can be seen the world over from women’s fashion to footwear, but that’s just scratching the surface, as Ahn told Sneaker Freaker, ‘If me being me empowers others to do the same, then I have done my job as a designer.’ We caught up with Ahn as part of our Taking Control of Their Narrative series to talk about her Nike collaborations, upcoming releases and more.

ambush air more uptempo black
via yoon ahn
via yoon ahn
via kith

The Dunk High, AM180, the iconic AF-1, the Air Adjust Force and now the Uptempo. Why this silhouette?
I have always been a fan of Uptempo. Childhood memory played a big role. But now that I’m grown up, I wanted to reinterpret the silhouette to fit into a more current time, so they've been made low-cut to fit different lifestyles.

What are the similarities and differences with how you approach sneaker and jewellery design?
I would say there are more similarities as where these items are worn is set on the body so it’s easier to design. Then it comes down to shape, material, colours to define my ideas.

Your approach to empowering women in your work is a standout. Such strength, expression and creativity. Did you always set out to do this with your work?
Me being a woman and owning my own line has always been very important to me. I always wanted to make sure I brought my distinguishable design language that went beyond gender, cultures and class and age. If me being me empowers others to do the same, then I have done my job as a designer.

Why do you think the partnership with Nike has been so positive?
Because I think we both kind of challenge each other in a good way. I've been very transparent with them from the beginning as someone who doesn't actively participate in sport, but how do we use fashion as a platform to tell a story? How do we introduce sports to people who might not be paying attention to sport? How do we tie fashion subculture and all these nerdy things into creating this story board together in a way that you don't see in other collaborations. Then me being someone who also lives in Japan and just my background, I think being so diverse and unique, it's been very fun connecting all these dots together and being able to create products. Not just product, but also stories. I'm heavily involved in every process of everything, but it's amazing to have this full support.

You’re alongside Feng Chen Wang, Megan Thee Stallion, Parris Goebel and game-changing athletes like Sabrina Ionescu and Crystal Dunn in Nike’s latest campaign. Why was it important to see this come together in 2023?
2023 is a special year as we just celebrated the Women's World Cup Tournament in Australia and New Zealand. The more we come together as a female collective to celebrate this womanhood, the voice and message becomes stronger. It’s always great to see women of all walks of life come together.


What do you want to achieve here? 
It’s not about me achieving more but more about me contributing to a bigger collective message. I want to be a cheerleader of milestone moments.

Is having a global vision important to your work with Nike across the female space?
I think it's good to bring the global vision into it, because I'm not one of these designers just stuck at a studio all the time. I'm actively on the move and also being connected to different cultures and seeing different scenes, and I can bring that energy and give worldly perspective into Nike. I'm not saying Nike doesn't have these amazing members that push things globally, but for me it's about working on something together to push an idea even more.

I have become that person that challenges them and they also challenge me. Nike is so big, so how do you make beautiful products that can hit the masses? I think people often view design as being complicated and hitting very few people in the world. I think that's a way easier job than being able to make beautiful product that can resonate with almost a billion people. That's the even bigger challenge. So, it’s been very fun. I've been learning so much about Nike and the impact of this brand.

Can you expand a little on that Nike impact?
There's a power in Nike, the Swoosh and the messages that they've built over the decades. I was in Egypt for Dior Men's fashion show, and I had few hours to go to the pyramids and sightsee. When kids came out on the field trip to the pyramids, they put on their best outfits, and obviously a lot of the things they were wearing were probably from the street market, all in this fake Nike stuff.

So to me, what dawned on me was the consciousness of me being in Egypt for Dior Men's high fashion show, which happened a few hours later in front of the pyramids versus on the street, these kids with nothing wearing this Nike Swoosh as their Louis Vuitton or Chanel thing. And I thought, this has real power. So beyond the product, I think what Nike has is the message you can put out and what they can wear to empower these people. Just having that symbol on them, I think it's amazing.

What do you think that symbol represents? Confidence? Aspiration?
Everything. Nike has the best athletes, and it's like all those people's journey that Nike celebrated together, from Michael Jordan to Serena Williams and all the people that we know. It's like that one person's journey and the fight and the victory. I think any human being can relate to that story, whether you play sport or not. We all are on our own journey trying to achieve something. And I think the thing about the Nike symbol is that it's for the commons, it's for the people. It's not just for the elites or for people with money. Right?

ambush air more uptempo
via nike

What’s next from this collection and your work with Nike? Can we expect more AMBUSH x Uptempo colourways?
We have more colourways in lavender and OG black and white dropping in fall 2023. My work with Nike will absolutely continue, and is looking to be stronger than ever – so stay tuned!

To keep up to date with all of the latest from AMBUSH, head here.

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