In a year that left many drained and listless, Naomi Osaka dazzled with the dynamics that makes her a star on and off the tennis court. She was voted The Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year 2020, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, AdWeek’s Most Powerful Woman in Sports and Forbes Highest-Paid Female Athlete of all Time, and was among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
Japan-born Osaka, 23, holds dual citizenship — her father is Haitian and her mother, Japanese, and she grew up in the US — and will compete for her birth country at the Tokyo Olympics in July. For now, she is fronting Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2021 campaign, photographed by Nicolas Ghesquière, the maison’s artistic director of women’s collections.
The French label says its newest ambassador embodies the LV woman — multi-faceted, independent and modern. Currently third in the Women’s Tennis Association singles ranking, she mirrors the changing times with her activism. At the US Open last September, she wore face masks bearing the names of Black Americans who died as a result of alleged police brutality.
Fashion is her “most treasured passion” aside from tennis, says the first Asian player ever to be ranked No 1 in the world. She praises Ghesquière: “He’s a designer I admire so much and we share a mutual love of Japanese culture and style.”
He says: “Naomi is an exceptional woman who represents her generation and is also a role model for everyone. Her career and convictions are inspiring. I am in awe of Naomi; she stays true to herself and doesn’t compromise on her values.”
Fans can expect to see Osaka expressing herself more through fashion. At New York Fashion Week last March, she debuted her first capsule collection, a collaboration with Japanese label ADEAM. She started 2021 by gracing the January cover of American Vogue in an asymmetric Louis Vuitton slip dress, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
For LV’s Spring/Summer campaign, she wears a playful, kaleidoscopic mini dress that captures her love for bold colours and prints. “To become a global brand ambassador is truly a dream come true for me,” says Osaka. It is a dream that has just begun for this influential athlete.
This article first appeared on Jan 18, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.