Best Body Slammers: Japanese female wrestling meets design

The Sukeban female wrestling league made its Miami debut in December, with a championship belt by Marc Newson, hats by Stephen Jones, creative direction by Olympia Le Tan – and a win in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2024

Sukeban Japanese Felame Wrestling
Designer Marc Newson, left, with the championship belt, and a costume by Olympia Le Tan, right
(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Direct from the fighting rings of Japan, female wrestling league Sukeban took over Miami’s Lot 11 Skatepark for one night only during Miami Art Week 2023 to crown its first-ever World Champion. Equipped with visually explosive costumes and equally fierce moves, the debut was an epic event and a feast for hungry fashion eyes, and a winner in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2024. 

Sukeban female wrestling meets design in Miami

Sukeban Japanese Wrestling in Miami

Sukeban wrestlers Queen of Hearts and Maya Mamushi battle it out in Miami’s Lot 11 Skatepark

(Image credit: Courtesy of Deonte Lee, BFA)

Because superheroes deserve the best, the victor was awarded a championship belt specially designed by industrial design legend Marc Newson, in collaboration with acclaimed Japanese illustrator Ayako Ishiguro. The belt is constructed by Newson with white leather, gold studs, and a central plate using the cloisonné technique to best demonstrate Ishiguro’s graphic work. 

The artist’s illustration, taken from seminal moments in wrestling history, features a series of combative scenes surrounded by the claws of a blue dragon and Siamese crocodiles – it’s a mythical artwork reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of hell.

Championship belt by Marc Newson for Sukeban female wrestling in Miami

Marc Newson and Ayako Ishiguro’s championship belt

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Although this group of dames may seem like joyful animé dolls at first glance, they are anything but tame. Sukeban, meaning ‘delinquent girl' in Japanese, is an ode to the girl gangs of the 1960s and 1970s. According to Olympia Le-Tan, a fashion designer and the league’s creative director, the importance of projecting each wrestler’s personality and character through their costume was crucial. ‘We want them to feel and look like the superheroes that they are. Tough but also fun,' affirms Le-Tan. Their hats have been created by the world’s best milliner, Stephen Jones.

Sukeban female wrestler wears wig and dress in Miami

Wrestler ‘Lady Antoinette’

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Amongst the wrestlers, there’s karate black belt ‘Stray Cat’ masked in black latex; elegant ‘Lady Antoinette’ from Hiroshima, carrying a rambunctious headpiece and known for her edgy ‘Guillotin’ signature move; and monochrome ‘Bingo’, stencilled in black and white diamond patterns twirling with a heavy chain. 

Each of the women and their units – Cherry Bomb Girls, Dangerous Liaisons, The Vandals, and Harajuku Stars – were part of this unconventional encounter, with eyes on the final prize. Hosted by actor and style legend Kunichi Nomura, it was an evening of quality art, design and pop culture, with just a hint of insanity.

The event took place 6 December 2023. Lot 11 Skatepark, Downtown Miami

A version of this article appears in the February 2024 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Female wrestler from behind, with pink dressing in hair

 ‘Ichigo Sayaka’

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Sukeban in Miami

‘Atomic Banshee’

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Sukeban in Miami

The championship belt was unveiled recently in New York by Sukeban Commissioner ‘Bull Nakano’

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Female wrestlers fight

(Image credit: Jiro Konami)

Originally hailing from Puerto Rico, Maria Sobrino spent seven years with Wallpaper* as an interiors stylist. These days you can find her enjoying a dinner al fresco at her Miami MiMo apartment on Biscayne Bay, or riding her scooter around Miami in search of beautiful things, both exterior and interior.