Inside the design studio with June Ambrose and Puma
June Ambrose; you can refer to her as creative director, costume designer, style consultant, etc., as long as you put “iconic” in front. June Ambrose, along with many contemporaries of the 90s and early 2000s, carved out a place for herself in the fashion space that quickly became global. We can attribute the synergy between hip hop and fashion in part to Ambrose. From the infamous 90s videos of Missy and Diddy (remember those shiny red suits) to proper rapping and her most recent work at Puma. In 2020, she was named Creative Director of the sportswear powerhouse, responsible for bringing her signature stylistic approach to the brand.
“I always love talking to Essence – it’s the Bible, the Black Bible.” We caught up with the style esthete via a zoom ahead of Puma’s NYFW show and discussed how her wardrobe background influences her design process, the moodboard for SS 23′, the importance of nostalgia , Puma’s longstanding relationship with hip-hop, and what to expect from the NYFW activation.
On the SS 23′ Mooboard:
Past present Future. The past history of Puma sportswear and only performance sportswear and lifestyle sportswear from everywhere to everyone, from the 1940s through the 60s, 70s and 80s. So far, it’s the first mood board. My second moodboard concerns street culture and its evolution in the world. Think 70s cartoons that tapped into that chapter of street and urban culture, growing up in textured neighborhoods, super big brownstones, the bodega, the energy of kids coming together, and more. My third painting is the future of how I see sportswear. It’s less about performance and more about technology and technology. It’s lively, and it feels like the air is different. It’s not Earth, it’s something completely different; This is the Juniverse.
A lesson in restraint:
(Working with Puma) I learned restraint. Because naturally, that’s the hardest thing for creative people to do, especially people with expressive viewpoints. I learned to look at things very critically and clinically. I’ve always looked at things clinically, but now I think about it from all angles. From the market to the numbers, it’s not just about the garment, but how it will serve all these different types of individuals around the world. I think I’ve definitely become a more critical thinker when it comes to design. Whereas before, it was a great costume for those videos facing the stage. You know, it’s a great time for, you know, the red carpet. But that’s a different creative process and another skill. And a lot of what I’ve learned throughout my career has helped me take risks in areas I wouldn’t usually take.
Ethos of the collection:
Audacity, lifestyle and sense of the street.
Much of what I’ve learned throughout my career has helped me take risks in areas I wouldn’t usually take. And also changing the culture to, you know, being outside on the way in, and, you know, helping people understand that, that everything is moving in streetwear. And I think that’s as bold and bold a statement as I was saying, almost three years ago, it was going to be the number one genre in the music world, and it is. So it’s like, there are so many aha moments in the experience, but I think I can only be in this position because of the journey I’ve been on.
It’s all rooted in nostalgic moments, even like now designing the various pieces and working throughout the show – it’s all rooted in nostalgia. When I was creating these different pieces and working through the show, and I had a great idea, I tried to dive into my research, and I was like “shit, it’s already done “. Everything has been done. You have to look more at how you reinvent it and reinterpret the how because you also want to create tangible things, at least I do. Creating these exaggerated vanguard moments for this particular narrative doesn’t make sense. So I have to find a way between the two conversations, to create something that is very trendy but also something that lends itself to a moment of contact with the consumer of the brand. There will be ready-to-purchase moments on the show as well as more concept moments, so you want the consumer to feel like they can buy those things.
It becomes more a matter of interpretation. Nostalgically, there are so many great references and people who laid the groundwork. I like to think of myself as one of those people, so I dug into my old bag of tricks, looked at things I did, explored aesthetics back to the 40s and 50s, and got lots of fun reimagining things where we started. Take the T7 tracksuit, which is, you know, the brand’s DNA is one of you, when it comes to classic evergreen tracksuits, I wanted to give it its moment, you know, what I means ? I wanted to give her her flowers. This tracksuit has been rooted in the brand since its creation; let’s celebrate his iconic moment, the fact that he’s still in the lineup. It’s like their classic t-shirt. So I started highlighting those moments that felt like big highlights and aha moments for the brand – and re-imagining those moments.
What to expect :
The show is not a typical parade. It’s more of an experience. It’s not like going to Broadway or a fashion show. It’s a brand moment, but those collaborative moments are also presented as part of the show, like my first brand collaboration is in the show. There’s June Ambrose x Puma, and there’s a Dapper Dan x Puma, but then there’s a select or lifestyle product that’s Puma, alongside 40 something new design I have designed to work in the conversation section of the show. So it’s not a traditional show. The way you’ll experience it won’t be like sitting down like you’re going to see a traditional show, but then you’ll be immersed in 75 years of Puma.
I want everyone to be really surprised, but there’s this piece that celebrates someone that I find super iconic, and I’m going to celebrate it during the show. You’ll have to meet me after the show so we can talk about it.