Take A Trip Back to Dior’s Fall 2020 Show on Miami Beach, As Told by Yoon Ahn
You see her at Kim Jones’s Dior shows: Yoon Ahn is the striking blonde jewellery designer whose outfit always demands a double-take. The creative force behind the Ambush brand, she’s an aesthetic pioneer, part urban tomboy, part hot girl with an extra serving of design sophistication on top. How she wears it today is how you will want to put it together tomorrow. Fact.
US-born, Shibuya-based Ahn studied graphics at the University of Boston, where she met her life partner, the Korean rap ace Verbal. It was her designs for him – huge Cuban chains and bronze baseball caps – that set her on the route to accessories nirvana and streetwear superstardom. She has become one of the most influential architects of modern taste, which is why Jones tapped her to design the jewellery for his Dior collections.
Ahn has collaborated with everyone from Nike and Sacai to Off-White and Rimowa, but the jewellery she designs for Jones at Dior has brought her eye to a couture level. The experience of working with him and his circle of top creatives – from studio head and design director Lucy Beeden to Edward Crutchley on fabric development and 1017 Alyx 9SM founder and designer Matthew Williams on accessories – is unique. Here, Ahn gives us an exclusive insight into the Dior creative machine with her timeline for the lead-up to the Pre-fall 2020 show.
Kim has a “kick-off” meeting for every collection, to go through his ideas. We have to do four collections a year, besides the tiny ones in between, and it takes about two months to produce everything to final sample. But the planning starts way before. The creative team usually does the kick-off in London. It was the height of the British summer, right after the June show in Paris, when we all gathered to kick off the Miami collection. At these meetings, Kim is really clear about communicating his ideas. He does it with words and images, and there’s always real direction for where he wants it to go. Lucy Beeden also shares really nicely. What makes all of their collaborations work so well is that, all around, there is really good communication with the team.
After that meeting in London, I knew we were going to do a collaboration with Stüssy and I knew the show was going to be taking place in Miami. I grew up with Stüssy, and I had one idea of what Stüssy was, but this was a Dior collaboration with Shawn Stussy the man, not Stüssy as a brand, because he no longer works with them any more.
Three Months Before the Show
Once we’ve had the kick-off meeting, everyone can start working on their ideas. I like to wait and see what apparel and bags are doing, because jewellery needs to be worn with the clothes. Once we saw where they were heading with it, we started putting together all the ideas. Palm trees and sun are what Miami is known for and it’s a city that likes to show off. You think of guys in gold chains and silk shirts, and big yachts and boats. I captured that vibe of Miami by keeping everything in gold, but at the same time we were working with a specific artist, so we adapted from the drawings that Shawn did, and made them into little motifs on all the jewellery, so that all of Shawn’s fans can easily recognise what this is. And since it’s Miami, it’s about the sea, so we used lots of shells and pearls for that tropical vibe.
Two Months Before
What’s the best thing about working with Kim? I like that he doesn’t micro-manage people. That’s very important in a leader and a creative director. The whole point of having a team is that you trust the people to be in that position because they know what they are doing, right? So of course you will guide everyone, but I like that he doesn’t bring that ego into the workplace. It creates a wonderful environment for everyone to come together and bring all those ideas to life but under his umbrella. I love how organised he is and he’s so clear about things. This helps a lot of creative people because we can spend time creating rather than fixing things. He knows exactly where he wants to take this Dior and this Dior man.
At every step there’s a lot of communication, so it doesn’t matter where in the world the team is. I like to use WhatsApp to keep in touch. After sketching, we check in with Kim before we start sampling. We go through two sample stages. The first samples come back within about a month. Then we get final approval on all the samples and that takes us up to two weeks before the show. That’s when the styling starts.
Two Days Before
Kim and Melanie Ward started styling the show up to two weeks before in Paris, but I flew into Miami from Japan two days before and headed straight to the Hyatt, where all the staff were staying and where the fittings were happening. Sometimes we do on-the-spot free-styling, but usually they are both pretty clear about how the boys should look. There’s music playing – Kim likes house and disco. Everyone is lively and doing their own thing. There’s lots to prep but the air is never heavy. Everyone’s always enjoying it and having fun. A lot of friends come in and out. There are lots of celebrities – Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Travis Scott, Luka Sabbat. Maybe it’s a big deal to some people, but we’re all too busy getting ready for the show to get into that. I don’t want to make it sound over-glamorous because, at the end of the day, we’re behind the scenes and we’re just focused on prepping for the show. It is what it is.
Sometimes I wish I could be more of a tourist but I don’t have time to enjoy Miami. I also have my own label, Ambush, so in between fittings I’m prepping things for Tokyo. They’re waking up when it’s night-time in Miami, so after all the Dior fittings have finished for the day and all the jewellery is packed with the clothes, I have to deal with that. It’s nonstop circles.
The show is in the evening, and backstage preparation starts from about 11am. Some people are in earlier but I don’t need to go backstage until 3-ish. I check to see how the jewellery is set up. There might be journalists coming in and I need to stand by and explain the collection to them.
I always wear something from the collection to the show. I like wearing men’s clothes, I always have. I can look at menswear and I know how to coordinate it so it will look good on me. It’s not like before, when menswear was only for men. Now you see all the girls wearing men’s coats and jackets or oversized things and then styling it with their heels. And obviously, with the jewellery, I make sure it’s unisex, that girls can wear it as well as men. It’s very versatile.
For the show, I was wearing a marbled printed silk set-up. It didn’t get used in the show so I was lucky enough to borrow it. It was yellow and quite amazing – Edward Crutchley, told me there is only one place in Kyoto that can do the marble-effect printing, which is amazing. I got so obsessed with it and kept looking at them making the fabric on YouTube. It takes them so long to get things so perfect.
A big moment in the last few hours before the show is the rehearsal. It’s the first time we see the full outfits in the setting and it’s my favourite part. The show is the pinnacle, but when I see the venue coming to life and everything just coming together as a whole, it’s the most exciting thing. Then, finally, the show happens about an hour later.
Kim knows how to put on a show. He’s been staging major shows for more than a decade and he’s the master. The experience is total. He is very clear about who the Dior boys are and it gets better and better each time. It’s so exciting and I get to have the whole experience because I watch it from the audience. I’m thankful that they let me do that because I can see how it works when the models are walking and moving, and it give me more ideas of how we can make it next time. My professional side comes out, analysing and nitpicking.
I was so happy to be sitting next to Shawn for the show. I met him many years ago but I got to know him much better that day. He loved it! This collaboration brought him out of retirement. He’s already a legend on the street scene, but having his work displayed on a Dior scale, that’s another level. Any artist would be excited about that. I could see he was enjoying every moment of this. Once the show was done, I went backstage and said hi to a few people. I was also quite hungry, so was pigging out on food from the food truck! I was more into doing that than the music and the party. I also wanted to check out the new Rubell Museum, where the show was held.
After each show is over, it’s brought home to me how hard everyone works. For two months you prep. People put everything into it – a crazy amount of energy just bursting out. Then, in 10 minutes–poof! – it’s done and you say, “OK, onto the next one.” I left Miami on the morning flight the next day. I had to go back to Tokyo to get things done over there and, as the flight took off, I was already thinking about the next collection.
Photography by Tierney Gearon. Taken from issue 52 of 10 Magazine – COMMUNITY, BELONGING, UPLIFTING – available to purchase here.