On the list of international, creative power couples, Tokyo-based purveyors of cool—and Ambush designers—Verbal and Yoon rank highly. He’s an immensely talented rapper and producer who has worked with everyone from Kanye West to Daft Punk, while she’s renowned for her effortless urban chic style and penchant for creative direction—previously managing press and styling in Japan for Pharrell and his iconic streetwear line, Billionaire Boys Club. Together, Yoon and Verbal form a sought-after creative duo that constantly shapes culture through a relentless wave of new ideas. Evidence of this lies in their collaborations with a long line of powerhouse brands, including Louis Vuitton, Kitsune, and Sacai. In so many ways, they are a pair who exists outside of the boundaries of trends in favor of their own label of authenticity.
Verbal and Yoon launched Ambush jewelry in 2008, and their playful, comic book inspired POW! rings immediately struck a cord. “It was really birthed as an extension of our hobby,” Verbal says with modesty. When the husband and wife decided to add ready-to-wear pieces to their already respected line of statement jewelry, they brought the same emphasis on individuality expressed in a series of deceptively simple touches. The Fall ’16 collection is called Halbstarke and focuses on embellished denim.
With denim’s ageless popularity, creating stand-out looks lies in the subtle details. For Yoon, this was evident in the 1950s Americana-obsessed youth subculture of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, known as Halbstarke and captured in a series of haunting images by Karlheinz Weinberger. “Most of these kids’ outfits were set up around denim, because their idols were wearing denim,” Yoon tells us. “One thing that really stood out from those pictures was that they literally got nails and other metal parts, and they’d puncture their jeans in different places to decorate. It was so punk to me! The way they were decorating themselves was just so fresh to us, because it was so untainted—it was all about self expression.”
This insightful observance pervades the collection in stunningly simplistic ways: A perfectly washed jean shirt pierced with multiple, dully-glittering industrial staples; exaggerated, wide shoulder seams and sleeve lengths elongated by three or four inches conveying a sense of structured comfort; an army green jacket accented by the patchwork collection of jeweled parts; a shiny, twistingly knotted nail hanging artfully off of a collar.
It is this silver nail [pictured above] that sums up the collection, becoming both an accent and motif, with its meaning is embedded in the name of line’s statement jacket, the Denim Kugi Jacket. Yoon passionately reveals backstory. “The Kugi, in Japanese, means Nail. There’s a Japanese proverb that says, ‘The nail that sticks out must get hammered’.’ It’s about conformity. If you give the Kugi the fluid form, you can never kill the spirit.” These subtle touches in design make the collection the perfect balance of fluidity. The uniqueness of each piece is not overly ostentatious, rather subtle flashes of definition that shape both the garment and the wearer in the most stylish of ways.
While the denim of the collection is produced entirely in Japan’s Okayama region, which is known for its denim, a variety of artisans located throughout Japan complete the collection. For Yoon and Verbal, their proximity to the various production partners allows for them to intimately dictate the details and quality that make each piece an expression of personal creativity. It also maintains a spirit of community, building a network of astutely talented individuals working for a collective vision and cause.
Driven by a clear vision for their growing line, the level of early success is a indicator that their community of appreciators is expanding. And it has been a journey to get to this point: The pair met at college in Boston more than ten years ago, when Verbal was studying marketing and philosophy and Yoon creative design. “Back then, we never thought we’d make a brand that would have a store like Barneys carry it,” says Verbal. “So for us that was very exciting. It shows us that we’ve attained a certain point in our brand where a certain set of people would acknowledge our design and the concept that we hold dearly.” Individuality is always a timeless pursuit. And it is beautiful to see it manifested even in the ubiquity of denim.