June Ambrose Is Bringing Puma Into the Future
Pushing culture forward is not an easy task, but June Ambrose has the intel on how to do it. The legendary, award-winning creative director celebrated Puma’s 75-year history with a high-power immersive New York Fashion Week show. For the Puma SS23 FUTROGRADE runway, Ambrose took over Cipriani’s, a New York glitterati institution, and injected the space with her magic—dancers, LED screens from wall to wall, Usain Bolt in a tuxedo, a Dapper Dan collaboration, and loads of sparkly high-end tracksuits. “She has always exuded such a confidence that made you trust her judgment in whatever she said was hot fashionably,” Missy Elliott, a friend and long-time collaborator of Ambrose told Interview ahead of the show. “You trusted her because she spoke with confidence, she walked with confidence, and she surely dressed with confidence.” All of that confidence was materialised into a 40-piece collection with palpable and exciting nods to hip hop and Puma’s archive. We caught up with Ambrose after the show for a chat about her favorite Elliott look of all time (a tough decision to make) and how she works it.
ERNESTO MACIAS: Hi, June. This is Ernesto from Interview.
JUNE AMBROSE: Hi, Ernesto.
MACIAS: First of all, congratulations. How many hours of sleep did you get last night?
AMBROSE: I overslept, so makeup and hair were here at 9:30 and I went to bed at 3:30, and I woke up at 9:30…
MACIAS: So, a good six hours.
AMBROSE: Yeah. I haven’t slept in months, to be honest. I’ve been so consumed with this show and every time I close my eyes I’m going through each look. I’m calling my team in the middle of the night. I’m thinking of something that I may have forgotten. So, sleep has been four or five hours. It’s been awful, but I’m glad that the end result was worth it. I’m feeling really good.
MACIAS: What emotions are you feeling right now after seeing everything come to life?
AMBROSE: I get butterflies before doing something that is culture shifting. Normally when I have butterflies it’s when I’m on the verge of triumph. It’s weird. It’s like something you’ve been nurturing for so long, and when you finally get to deliver it, it’s a beautiful thing. So, it’s bringing life into the world, metaphorically. I felt like what we created last night was a new art form in this space and that we were re-energizing the conversation around Puma in a very stylish, urban, and aficionado-like way. That part felt good.
MACIAS: How would you describe the collection in three words?
AMBROSE: Three words? Sporty, elevated, and powerful.
MACIAS: Why is it important for the culture to reimagine a brand like Puma in the way that you did?
AMBROSE: Well, I think that there’ve been cultural contributors for quite some time, it has been in this space for 75 years and that’s for a reason. They are continuing to contribute to the fabric of sportswear and style. I think that there’s always room to grow and expand on that. So, I’m just leaning into what I feel is the right space for the brand and where there’s room to grow. But there’s been successes in so many other areas that I know if we can combine the two, we can have great traction and triumph.
MACIAS: I love that. So you had the Missy Elliott at the show. What does she represent to you?
AMBROSE: I’ve worked with Missy from the inception of her career. I’ve known her for over 26 years. We’ve done some really iconic things together and I felt, not only is she someone I’ve worked with, but she’s family, she’s a friend. When I’m celebrating a milestone like I was last night, I wanted to do it with her. I’ve created and directed another brand with her before and it’s amazing to have her present in the next chapter in my life and my career.
MACIAS: I love that. What is your favorite Missy look of all time?
AMBROSE: “She’s a Bitch.” I mean, I’ve done every last of Missy’s videos except for three, because I wasn’t around. But count her videos, there are only three that I’ve missed. So there are a lot of favorites. “Sock It 2 Me.” “Rain” is the most iconic, but there are so many other ones that we did that were like “She’s a Bitch.” They were incredible. “Hot Boyz,” is incredible. “Get Ur Freak On” is incredible. I mean, to ask me my favorites, that’s extremely, extremely hard.
MACIAS: What was the inspiration behind the look she was wearing yesterday?
AMBROSE: She loves a tracksuit. We’ve been doing elevated tracksuits for a while and Missy loves stones, glitz, and glamour. The crazy thing is, before I even invited her to the show, I had the design on my board. I was working on something for her because I wanted to get her into the brand. We were supposed to do a show and I was going to design the live stage show. So I said, “If I send you the plane, will you come?” She was like, “For you, I would.” So it was really special to have her in the room.
MACIAS: So how do you work it when you feel like you need a little inspiration? How do you get the energy?
AMBROSE: [Singing] Oh, that’s a great question. I’m always looking for inspiration in different ways. For this particular show, I spent some time in the Puma archives, looking back at the classic T7 tracksuit, looking back at some of their co-branded, high-end collaborations. But I’m inspired by life itself. Life is a sport. I’m a people watcher, I like character development. For everything that I worked on for the show, I attached a character to them. It was like, “Who is this person? Who does this person want to become? How can I evolve them? How can I allow them to feel powerful and seen?” It’s about developing one’s character. That’s how you capture a consumer forever because they recognize, “This person sees me, they speak to me, they get what my lifestyle is, and it has the versatility and classiness that I need.”
MACIAS: What is your favorite thing about New York City, and why?
AMBROSE: This concrete jungle, the landscape, the structure, the way that people come from all over the world, and how we become one. Someone said something to me last night, they said, “I love that it was in New York City. I love that it reminded me what it was like to just tap out of social media for one minute and be present.” It’s exactly what I wanted. It’s like we live in an alternate universe because we’re so tapped into our devices. But to sit in a show and watch it and have this immersive experience and to feel something, not be the critic, but just to experience it in its truest form, that is exactly what I wanted people to take away. So I went to bed last night knowing that I had done something that was culturally shifting and important to what I was experiencing, not only in my own life but for the people around me.
MACIAS: So what are you doing tomorrow?
AMBROSE: I’m going to take a day. I’m going to power down and then I’m going to prepare for Milan Fashion Week. And we’re going to get at it again and we’re going to chase some new opportunities.