June Ambrose has worn many hats in the entertainment industry—and her endeavor as creative director of PUMA has ushered in a whole new chapter. Today, Ambrose and PUMA release new items from the High Court Collection—taking inspiration from the multi-hyphenate’s philosophy that “life is a sport, style is the game, and basketball is the vibe.” If you ask us, it’s a winner. We caught up with her to hear what’s been keeping her on the ball lately!
You’ve been doing great things at PUMA so far! How did becoming their creative director come about, and what’s been a highlight so far?
Before I started working with PUMA, I was a fan of the brand. They have a long, rich history embedded in hip hop. When they approached me with this opportunity, it was an exciting time because it was the launch of their women’s basketball division. I was excited to be able to conceptualize what this was and make a commitment to women to the future of women and sports. The highlight so far has been the success of the High Court collection. The initial drop was so well received, some of the pieces we had to fight for were the ones that sold out! It’s been fun to see women—and men!—sport the looks. I’m eager for this second drop because the pieces are some of my favorites and are perfect for the season; versatile and functional. We’re also finally sharing the collection with the rest of the world in the global launch, so that’s exciting.
Your career has spanned many different categories, but where did it all begin?
I started in the theatre department of my performing arts high school, that’s when I started conceptualizing characters through costumes so my interest in costume design began early on. After high school I got a job in investment banking then at Uptown/MCA Records, that’s when I booked my first styling job for TK. The rest is history!
Tell us why you’re excited about the latest High Court collection.
This collection is special to me because it was inspired by women on and off the court, athletes who are changing the game for the next generation and women who see life as a sport. When designing the collection I considered the lifestyle of women and how integral functionality is to our wardrobe. These new pieces really speak to that, they have a ton of versatility. The Quad Jacket can be zipped and deconstructed to where it can be worn in seven different ways and the Timeless Tank is reversible with different colors.
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We know that you’re from New York City, how does the city inspire you as a person and a creative?
I’m inspired by urban street culture, which is so prevalent in the city. I love to experience and learn about worlds outside of my own and that’s pretty easy to do in the city, there are so many people and the history is rich. When I need inspiration I’ll run around New York visiting vintage shops, comic book stores, and museums.
What has been your favorite part about designing the most recent High Court collection?
It’s been fun to reimagine core competencies of the PUMA brand, things like the form stripe which is evident in the leggings and biker shorts, and the paw print for the Madison Coat. The retro ’90s rugby sets were always a favorite silhouette of mine since junior high school so doing the oversized rugby set was cool and it’s gender neutral which was important to me, I always want everyone to feel included. The Quad Jacket is definitely one of my favorites—there are so so many ways to wear it, I’m really looking forward to seeing how people style it!
What kind of mark do you want to leave on both PUMA, and the fashion industry as a whole?
I’m hoping to bring a new and fresh perspective; I’m re-designing and reimagining what style and sport means. I’m re-contextualizing who the PUMA woman is and what she needs and addressing these needs through design. For me, it’s kind of a ‘for us by us’ thing; women giving back to other women, lighting the torch and creating the lane. I want my legacy to be that I normalized style in sportswear. I took a commercial risk, you know? We’re not creating runway fashion but still iconic and wearable fashion. I want to continue walking my own walk and talking my own talk while encouraging others to do the same.
Is there anyone in particular that you had in mind when designing the collection?
I had to conceptualize women’s hoops. I was asked to give it a face. We knew what the men’s business looked like but as this was the launch of an entirely new category for PUMA, we didn’t know who the female customer was. I had to envision her! I’ve had to discover her and serve her in the overall collection through emotion, in a way that would make her feel fearless and powerful whether she was an athlete or not. I did a lot of research from looking into the inception of women’s basketball to speaking with athletes about what they wanted on and off the court. I really just like to see powerful women styling the pieces in ways that work for them.
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If you had to describe the newest collection in three words, what would they be?
Intentional, bold, functional.
The lines between athleisure and luxury blur more and more each day. Why do you think that is, and how does this collection push the conversation?
Sportswear is a pillar of American culture and I think it’s made a prevalent place for itself within high fashion. You can see the juxtaposition of silhouettes and different fits that are just more avant garde with punctuated concepts. This collection speaks to the foundation of what a player needs off and on the court, but through a stylized lens, which I think is new and different to how other sports brands see it. I’m trying to redefine what it means to be stylish in sport. That’s why the versatility of the pieces are great, you can layer up or down.
What’s coming up for you in 2022?
More drops! I’m excited to support other collections I’ve creatively directed that vary from each other and speak to different types of women. The Dec collection has more of an ‘anniversary’ feel, it’s more lifestyle with uniqueness and expression.