Last night at Cipriani, Puma made an exciting return back to New York Fashion Week. The show, titled “Futrograde,” was presented in three parts, including appearances by Missy Elliott-inspired fencers and lots of black tie tracksuits and elevated gorp-core gear.
The legendary costume designer began her career interning at MCA records where she began styling artists. With a natural talent for forging style identities in the streetwear and hip hop scene, she has gone on to style over 200 music videos across her career. She has worked with megastars like Busta Rhymes, Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey, and Missy Elliott, for whom she designed the iconic blow up in “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”.
When Ambrose first joined the brand, her collection “High Court” was Puma’s first ever Women’s basketball collection. Now, for Spring 2023, she is not only curating the full show, but is debuting over 40 personally designed items in her first ever co-branded collaboration with Puma.
Before the big debut, PAPER sat down with creative director June Ambrose to discuss the show and her first co-branded collaboration with Puma.
Backstage at the PUMA show (Photo via BFA)
First of all congratulations on the show, this set really is a moment! How did you come to be involved with Puma, and what’s it been like working with the team?
Incredible, really. I was brought on in 2018 by Emory Jones and Jay Z to launch women’s basketball for them and we had a very successful launch. As we expanded into other avenues of the business, they said they had this really big project and thought I could be the one to bring them back to New York Fashion Week. I said okay!
You started not too long before the pandemic, how do you feel like it’s affected the brand? Was it a reset for you creatively?
Oh, totally, yes. There were a number of factors. First of all, when I first started to think of this show — this isn’t a traditional runway show as you can see — I’m really obsessed with fencing. I feel like it’s one of those sports that doesn’t get enough attention.
Wait, have you fenced?
Absolutely not. I did a music video with Busta Rhymes back in the late ‘90s and I was still obsessed with it then. I’m always looking for sports that I can take out of context and make fashionable. This is the first time I’m seeing the models rehearse together, I’m so excited.
So with fencing in mind, what else were you drawing inspiration from for this collection?
We have certain products we wanted to showcase, we have partners, like Palomo (Spain), that we also wanted to showcase, but I wanted to approach it differently. I met Alejandro for the first time last night and I said to him it’s going to be one of two things: you’re either going to hug me after this show or you’re going to slap me because I really did take creative license to design some additional pieces to add to the capsule and the runway. In this show I’m also getting to launch my first co-branded collection which will be launching in January!
Were there any pieces in particular that you wanted to highlight in this collection?
Sort of, but it’s not just a collection it’s a brand moment. So I think it started from that context and then we asked how do we express that we want to play in the fashion sportswear space and be respected on the street-culture level which is an integral part of the DNA of what I’ve been developing, and you’ll see that, how I’ve really delved into what’s happening in the marketplace where street culture has eclipsed every other genre of fashion — from small houses to big houses, let’s be honest.
Photo via BFA
I agree, streetwear is in an entirely different place in 2022 than it was even ten years ago. How do you see Puma fitting into this space?
Next year is 75 years of Puma, so we celebrate that, 50 years of hip-hop, we celebrate that. We looked at the first classic tracksuit for the brand, the T-7 classic tracksuit and we reimagined it with a little modern twist. Our T-7 is the foundation of our classics, it’s elegance! I want everything to feel familiar, like cigarette pants or motorcycle suits, and it’s not an easy thing to do when you’re finding your voice in it. Fashion is mute without style and this brand moment speaks across generations.
If you have one, what was your favorite piece in this show?
There’s this one piece in the “Keeping Score” section, in my first co-branded collab, that I created to celebrate someone that I’m super proud of and someone who inspires me. I just wanted to pay homage to someone very close in my life, and thank her for just knowing that she was enough. She’s the person I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s a great sports-stadium type of moment and I get to debut that tonight.
It's really beautiful to perform a show and it’s obviously very close to your heart. Where do you see yourself, and your design identity going from here?
I guess this knocks everything wide open. I love projects like this and this really announces what I want to do. I’m excited to continue working with Puma, with their creative direction, with their design, and see how we can grow this division of the business!
Go behind-the-scenes at Puma's NYFW event with photographer Brett Banducci, below.