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June Ambrose on Leaving Puma and How Sports Changed Fashion

The acclaimed stylist and costume designer will leave her post as creative director for women’s basketball, where she elevated the stature of the sport in high fashion.
June Ambrose, Puma, WNBA, NBA, sport, basketball
Beyond her role as creative director of women's basketball at Puma, Ambrose enjoyed a wide-ranging remit that included working on the brand's return to New York Fashion Week in September 2022. (Getty Images)

June Ambrose, Puma’s creative director for women’s basketball, is set to leave the brand on the expiry of her contract at the end of 2023, BoF has learned.

The celebrity stylist and costume designer said she has decided to move on from the brand to pursue various personal projects in the coming year.

Ambrose has held her role at Puma since 2020, after she was introduced to then-chief executive Bjørn Gulden by her longtime friend and client Jay-Z. In her tenure, she significantly scaled Puma’s women’s basketball assortment and designed collections that infused elements of performance sportswear with fashion-forward design and her signature vibrant colours — elements she had been known for through her work as a costume designer for the likes of Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige.

Her work in the music industry contributed to some of hip-hop’s most iconic fashion moments, at a time when luxury brands were reluctant to work with rappers. She was responsible for Missy Elliott’s unforgettable black puffy suit in her “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” music video, for example.

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Earlier in her career, Ambrose worked at Puma’s rival Adidas, where she served as creative director of the German brand’s collaboration with Elliott.

“I was able to visually disrupt what the genre of music looked like and I saw a white space to do the same thing in the world of sport,” Ambrose said. “I set out to create something that at the time was new and fresh — product that was both performance and lifestyle at the same time.”

Ambrose helped to build Puma into a reputable name in US women’s basketball at a time when the WNBA and its players hardly received any coverage in mainstream media. Her first collection for Puma was a streetwear-inspired take on performance basketball clothing. Ambrose tapped five of Puma’s WNBA athletes for a star-studded launch campaign: Breanna Stewart, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Katie Lou Samuelson and Jackie Young. Later, she created a signature women’s basketball sneaker and a collection for Stewart, a two-time WNBA champion.

After expanding Puma’s women’s basketball category, Ambrose’s position at the brand developed into a wider-ranging role. She was tasked with leading creative direction for the brand’s buzzy return to New York Fashion Week in September 2022, for which she put on a prolific show that incorporated Puma’s signature motifs, such as its tracksuit stripes and leaping cougar logo, into unexpected silhouettes: a tuxedo jacket with joggers; a Puma bodysuit paired with a ballgown skirt. Models that walked the runway included Usain Bolt, Winnie Harlow and Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido.

Ambrose also launched several co-branded collaborations with Puma — which carried her name alongside the brand’s — including a 20-piece capsule which launched in January 2023, comprising performance basketball and streetwear-inspired apparel such as sweatpants and hoodies, as well as sneakers and accessories.

Ambrose played a key role in helping Puma reach previously underserved consumers in not only women’s basketball but also motorsports, which has quickly become a key category for the brand, looking to capitalise on the soaring popularity of competitions like F1 and Nascar in North America, particularly among female consumers. In May, the brand signed a landmark multi-year licensing deal to exclusively produce and sell F1 apparel, footwear and merch.

That month, Ambrose and Puma launched a womenswear Formula 1 collaboration with Scuderia Ferrari. The collection sold out at the in-person launch activation held in Miami ahead of the Grand Prix. In October, Puma hired A$AP Rocky as creative director of the overall F1 partnership.

In the decades prior to her role at Puma, Ambrose had already been a pioneer at the intersection of fashion, hip-hop and sportswear. Her projects included designing a basketball jersey-turned-dress for a Jay-Z music video, and she once staged a fashion show for the NBA where athletes walked the runway.

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In Puma, she found a platform that allowed her to bring this dynamic niche into mainstream popular culture.

“Athletes have now been integrated into the high fashion and pop culture conversation,” said Ambrose. “It’s like the tunnel walks are now runways and box seats are like sitting front row at a show.”

Further Reading

Inside Fashion’s Music Merch Opportunity

Artists, record labels and music festival organisers are collaborating with coveted labels to design better-quality, fashion-forward merch, sold at higher price points than before.

About the author
Daniel-Yaw  Miller
Daniel-Yaw Miller

Daniel-Yaw Miller is Senior Editorial Associate at The Business of Fashion. He is based in London and covers menswear, streetwear and sport.

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