Celebrity stylist and costume designer June Ambrose has designed a host of fashion collections since she came to the limelight in the early 90s, but her latest for Puma – her first collection teamed up with the giant of sports as creative director – has received Ambrose. a unique design approach, looking at the past, present and future of the brand.
“This is an exciting time in my life for many reasons,” Ambrose said from her office at Puma’s New York City headquarters. “It’s my 29th year as a costume designer, stylist and creative director and I’ve been in hip-hop for 50 years. So 2023 is the year I’ve been keeping score. It is the pinnacle of my contribution to culture. I think it’s all in a bubble now with this collection. It’s called ‘Keeping Score’, so it’s about more than just fashion. I really wanted to bring in performance and style. Life is a sport, so we continue that narrative with this collection.”
Ambrose’s Keeping Score collection offers 20 pieces for women, half of which debut on Thursday. The collection is designed in a burgundy and navy color palette and offers trendy sportswear such as an oversized hoodie, a removable mesh sports bra, an adjustable maxi to midi skirt and color-blocked leggings. The collection also offers Ambrose’s version of the classic Puma Ralph Sampson sneaker and the Prevail sneaker. Ambrose’s line is available at Puma stores, its website and select retailers worldwide. Pieces range from $30 to $200 retail.
The costume designer first joined Puma in 2020 as creative director for the women’s basketball category, launching a collection called “High Court” the following year that included fashion-meets-sportswear designs on par with what the brand was offering on the men’s basketball side. Ambrose’s High Court collection was well received, with retailer Nordstrom seeing the collection’s faux fur jacket, reversible beanie and other styles sell out on launch day. Specialty retailer Woodstack also saw collectible beans have a 90 percent sell-through rate and other accessories experience a 70 percent sell-through rate.
“[Ambrose’s] whole career has been about bridging the gap between streetwear and fashion and really elevating our stories, elevating the visibility of our athletes and ambassadors,” said Puma brand chief Adam Petrick. “When it came to understanding what we were going to do in terms of meaningfully providing equal access to our women’s basketball program, I think it was only natural that June, from a storytelling and branding standpoint, would have a big impact on that . . . And it absolutely has been.”
With the success of High Court in mind, Ambrose looked at some of the style elements of the collection when designing Keeping Score, such as high-waisted leggings with color-blocked lines. Ambrose also looked to 50 years of hip-hop for the collection including oversize styles with vintage washes. She looked at Puma’s extensive history in sportswear and added her own modern, haute couture look that aimed to bring the collection into the future.
“There’s something about hip-hop culture that’s unapologetic,” she explained. “When you think about some of the images from the early ’80s and early ’90s that are still timeless and classic and you’ve seen them reinvented and replicated, it really shows you that hip-hop is a timeless genre of music. . I wanted to create something that felt like it was a timeless genre of sportswear.”
“Keeping Score” will launch in two drops — the first is more subdued than Ambrose’s previous collections, she said, with a muted color palette. She explained that she used this design strategy to make the collection look “classic and rich” and nurture more of a lifestyle aesthetic.
In addition to previewing her “High Court” collection, Ambrose also used her history working with Puma for the line. Ambrose said she has been a Puma fan since growing up in the South Bronx, New York, and witnessed the music culture grow. She stated that she noticed who the brand partnered with or endorsed and used it in one of the first music videos she styled for Missy Elliott.
“For June, her main thing is to take a classic and redefine it,” said Emory Jones, co-founder of streetwear brand Paper Planes, who serves as a creative consultant to Puma. “Some people always want to come in and change who you are. The difference is that you cannot change the brand. You have to take the history and heritage of the brand and redefine it for this moment so that people in a new generation can understand it.”
Being relevant in the world of fashion has been an important strategy for Puma, which has partnered with brands in the industry for the past 25 years, according to Petrick, to “find new and interesting ways to push the culture forward about sports”. The brand began its fashion partnership with French fashion label Xuly.Bët in 1996, then partnered with houses and designers such as Jil Sander, Alexander McQueen and Miharayasuhiro, among others. The brand’s foray into high fashion has also been supported by its celebrity collaborations, including Rihanna and Dua Lipa.
“We’re certainly trying to be as unique as possible when it comes to hitting that sweet spot between sports and fashion,” Petrick said of what’s driving growth at Puma. “Our whole approach of thinking about the culture around sports has allowed us to think really meaningfully about the consumer’s lifestyle and cultural context. This has been a unique and refreshing point of view in the market that is allowing us to bring in new customers.”
Bringing in new customers was one of the impacts of Puma’s New York Fashion Week show last September, according to Petrick, who explained that the experience was “a comeback for a huge audience” at the brand. Ambrose hosted the fashion show, called Futrograde, and showcased her Keeping Score collection, as well as other sportswear pieces.
Petrick explained that Puma will continue to appear at global fashion weeks to come, with another big show planned for this fall during New York Fashion Week to celebrate the brand’s 75th anniversary.
Following the “Keeping Score” drop in January, Ambrose will debut the collection’s second drop in March. The upcoming collection will tap into Ambrose’s affinity for bold designs while still staying true to her own design aesthetic, she said.
“I feel that in order to reinvent myself, I have to follow my artificial intelligence — my authentic intelligence,” she said. “I know authentically that there was a bigger consumer here and a bigger reach. Now the second drop is a bit bolder and the color palette is very polarizing – it also speaks to the retro energy of the 90s with the silhouettes and color. it [drop] it’s an appetizer, then there’s more spice and flavor in the second point.”