For the first time since its collaborative collection with Rihanna’s now-defunct fashion house Fenty in 2017, Puma returned to the official New York Fashion Week schedule on Tuesday night.
Staged at Cipriani 25 Broadway on Wall Street—a space lined with monolithic columns and glossy painted ceilings—German activewear brand Futrograde’s exhibit came just before its 75th anniversary. As its (relatively young) creative director and designer, June Ambrose reintroduced Puma not only with the expected range of comfortable fun, but, in a surprising twist, also added a range of elevated and high-fashion silhouettes to mixture. Purpose? To bring Puma back to the forefront of fashion, says Ambrose.
A few days before the show, as he squeezed past noisy assistants carrying huge bags of clothes and models finishing their latest casting, Ambrose took a moment to chat with me about the brand’s anticipated return to New York Fashion Week—the all this while straining a lot. -I needed jam and toast for breakfast.
“We wanted to restore the iconic moments that the brand has created and we think we can still talk about,” she says. “It’s creating a street style moment with a classic sensibility. That to me is a really nice twist because you have to show so much substance and [try not] to over-design it to tell the story. Instead, there’s something quite elegant about the simplicity of it all.”
Ahead of the runway show, she visited Puma’s headquarters in Germany to research past styles from decades of archives, finding ways to reimagine retro pieces like its classic T7 tracksuit. Ambrose’s affinity for Puma’s heritage is revealed in the collection, which pays homage to streetwear, a category the brand pioneered. Baggy pants, layered ensembles and over-the-top, over-the-top fits that nod to what he was doing in the late 90s and early 2000s—all lifting and looking toward the brand’s future.
“When you trace things back to where they started, you discover so many beautiful things,” she reflects. “The show was really about highlighting select products within the brand in the lifestyle fashion space.”
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Puma also unveiled a number of coveted collaborations on the catwalk from Dapper Dan, Palomo, AC Milan and Koché – all of whom interpreted the brand’s heritage in their own ways. In an era of oversaturation and more-is-more, especially in fashion, Puma managed to answer what it means to be authentic and stand out as a heritage brand for its customers.
The show was split into three sections and took viewers through a timeline of Puma, celebrating its most iconic marks across the industry. Among the models gliding down the high catwalk, the performers added even more excitement and intrigue to the presentation. They crawled across the mirrored cobblestones of the runway with flowery dance sequences, and at times, melted into the stage, becoming props themselves.
In addition, Puma proved its ability to innovate by looking to the future by incorporating buzz-tech concepts into the show: It launched a parallel metaverse fashion show experience called Black Station that has exclusive wearable NFTs for limited edition physical sneakers. Black Station connects consumers to various web3 activations that are scheduled to appear over the coming years. “It’s still the unknown, so it’s nice to be able to have this non-tangible product and have a tangible product to prove it, which is kind of unique in this thing,” says Ambrose.
The Puma team also tapped into the beauty play of Blackness, incorporating favorite childhood hair accessories like colorful hair weaves, vibrant barrettes, bejeweled clips and more into the show. Other accessory points include otherworldly hats, maxi dresses and oversized sneakers.
“[I’m excited] to celebrate my contribution to culture, my work over the years in this space with this global brand and reestablishing the fact that Puma is more than just sports,” explains Ambrose. “It’s also life. AND style. I always say that life is a sport, and we played with this really safe energy and using our ‘AI’ – and by ‘AI’, I mean authentic intelligence, because there’s nothing artificial about how we’re approaching this. “
The show included both Fall 2022 pieces — which will be available immediately after the show — and others expected to be released during Spring 2023. See every look from Puma’s runway show below.
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