Jewellery designers, DJs, music producers, global party jet setters: Verbal and Yoon, a multi-creative duo from Tokyo, talking about their various facets.
For the husband-and-wife team Verbal and Yoon, designing their own jewellery brand Ambush is just one creative output: Yoon works as stylist and is a DJ in Tokyo’s hottest spots, her husband Verbal is a music producer, one fifth of the Japanese pop phenomenon Teriyaki Boyz and just released his first solo album Visionair. Together they rock the Tokyo fashion microcosm with their Ambush brand. Their colourful, 1980s inspired plastic rings and rosary necklaces are increasingly adorned by fashion magazines and worn by rap stars ranging from Kanye West and Lupe Fiasko to Big Sean. But that’s not all: Eager to foster outside talents, the duo also launched their own artist agency KOZM to promote Tokyo-based performers. And on their rare days off, Verbal and Yoon might jet to glitz events across the globe to sip a drink or two with the stars.
During a brief lull in their schedule, we asked Verbal and Yoon about their creative interventions.
What inspires your Ambush designs?
Yoon: For our jewellery line, it always starts with “what do I wanna wear this season?” Starting from that point, we pull out all the ideas and sketches we have gathered and then whip them into shape. We don't really follow a trend.
What inspires you?
Yoon: Whatever I'm obsessed with at the time; but usually a lot of things that I have always loved such as mutants, surrealism, music and pop culture.
Verbal: Music, especially hip-hop, has been at the core of whatever I do, so it naturally enters my own designs. For example, I have always fantasised about having four-finger rings, so I came up with my own rendition: the POW! ring. But my ideas definitely approach new realms when I do a back-and-forth with Yoon because her creativity is from a whole different planet.
So, when you think about a new project – how do you normally proceed?
Yoon: I believe in being open to opportunities. I have a graphic design background, so I enjoy doing CD designs or creating visuals for corporate campaigns. At the same time, we wanted to diversify beyond art direction, so we started our own jewellery brand, Ambush. And when I was given the chance to do PR for Billionaire Boys Club / ICE CREAM (by Pharrell Williams and NIGO, owner of A Bathing Ape) a few years ago, I just jumped at the chance – although I wasn’t too familiar with the whole PR thing. But I knew it would teach me something about marketing and PR. One thing lead to another, so NIGO asked me to design the Bathing Ape ladies line … and who knows what that will lead to? It's always been like this since the beginning: all about not being stuck in a particular role or "box". The more you do, the more ideas will spring up.
Since you are both creative collaborators and lovers, how do you work together and inspire each other?
Yoon: Well, we have known each other for so long and so well that with certain things we don't even need to explain them any more – we just know. Other than that, we both know what each other's strengths and weaknesses are, so when it comes to work we often take on different roles. Of course, it's not totally split in the middle with a line drawn through it all or anything – with most things we do, we both have an input. But generally speaking, Verbal is more in charge of business and I do more of the creative stuff.
Verbal, your solo album Visionair is a funky blend of electro pop and infectious hip-hop also featuring Lil Wayne, newcomer Nicki Minaj and Japanese J-pop star Namie Amuro. Congrats!
Verbal: Thanks! It was my first solo effort, so I was super excited to have lots of artists and producers help me out! But this album was released during the recent earthquake in Japan, so all I have been thinking about lately is how to divert all my resources and energy towards helping out those in need. I'm already working on some music as well as several projects for aid and it's been encouraging to see so many people and companies being super supportive of the cause.
It’s great that many creative people like you engage in charity for the earthquake victims. Considering your versatile talents: what's your favourite creative outlet? Making music, DJing, designing – what else?
Yoon: Pretty much everything. It's wonderful to know that I can go back and forth, using different parts of my brain. I'm an amateur DJ though. I get to DJ because my friends happen to throw the best parties in town!
Verbal: Working in the studio, designing, Djing – all of it is fun. But I'm currently hooked on looking into new technologies that will enhance the entertainment experience at live shows, especially in big arenas; there are some phenomenal projection technologies around. But before actually using them, I need to find some sponsors to fund it all.
When I come across pictures of you on the Internet, I always think: you guys are at every hot party!
Yoon: All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. Work hard and party harder.
Verbal: Sometimes at parties, you start to talk to someone not knowing that they're famous and you end up becoming friends with them. When foreign artists come to Japan, they don't get mobbed by fans like they would be back home, so they tend to be super chilled. Kanye comes to Japan just to hang out, I have thrown parties at underground clubs for Black Eyed Peas and I also did a "Cosplay" karaoke night with Kylie Minogue!
Finally, what's your favourite hangout in Tokyo?
Verbal: There's this spot in Aoyama called Sam's with thousands of jazz records stacked up along the entire wall. Great music, great food. Sea urchin pasta is my favourite! We often go there for a quiet drink and dinner before heading out to the clubs.