Intersections is a newly launched feature column that profiles creatives inside and outside the fashion industry. Each story is meant to illuminate how fashion, identity, art, and culture play a critical role in inspiring and informing the work and lives of some of the chicest people we know.
For every trend that trickles into a collection, there’s a source of inspiration. Some designers can cite a trip to Paris or a desire to reenvision ’90s sensibilities. But there’s always one underlying influence that hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves: streetwear. Long before everyone was wearing leggings or wondering what sneaker trends were bound to blow up, a set of trendsetters were championing streetwear. Of course, it should be noted that streetwear’s ascension to the mainstream can be equally traced back to Black stylists, Black designers, and Black artists who, from the ’90s to the aughts, set the stage for athleisure as we know it today.
Streetwear wouldn’t be what it is today without titans like the late Virgil Abloh—who fused high fashion and sportswear through his tenure as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and founder of Off-White—and musicians like Lil Kim, who dared to don a tracksuit on the red carpet before every celebrity was spotted in Juicy Couture’s velour set. But the biggest influencers were multi-hyphenates like June Ambrose, who managed to meld music, fashion, and film through over 30 years of work. Ambrose is a legend in and of herself. She’s the costume designer behind iconic movies (like Belly) and music videos (like Missy Elliott’s “The Rain” and Beyoncé’s “Black Is King”). She was named Puma’s creative director in 2020 and has since helped launch the brand’s first-ever women’s basketball collection.
Basically, she’s one of the driving forces behind what streetwear is today, so naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to interview her. Ahead, you’ll hear from Ambrose about her career, her style, and the trends she’s backing for spring.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work, what do you do? And how did you break into the fashion industry?
I’m a creative director at Puma. I’ve been involved in fashion since I was in a performing arts high school. When I would audition for roles and didn’t get them, I’d take on the costume design. I loved expressing a character through their clothes. I did have a brief stint in the research department of a financial institution. But I went into the music industry right after that and began costume designing for music videos.
You began your career as a costume designer working with some of the world’s biggest musicians and working on films—how do you feel music, streetwear, and fashion intersect?
They’re married! When I was first getting started, people didn’t see it. Sportswear and streetwear have always been a pillar of American fashion. When houses didn’t want to work with us, that’s when I began costume designing and storytelling. Now, you see it everywhere, from street style to luxury. It’s great.
You were named a creative director for Puma back in 2020. How did that role come about for you? What was it like to pivot from previous work to this role?
I’ve always been creative directing, so it wasn’t a difficult transition. I also found beauty in the timing, being that I started right as the pandemic did, allowing me to focus and think about specific consumers. Entering the sportswear space was exciting. I got to think about how I look at athleticwear. Positioning sportswear in fashion is a great road to be on.
How has your identity informed how you approach every aspect of your life, from the projects you choose to work on to your clothing?
I like punctuation. I want to create images that feel like a sentence with a fluid and clear point of view. I like things that are impactful and memorable and have an attitude. I always add some sauce. If food were fashionable, that’s how I think about it.
What’s so wonderful about you (besides having revolutionized the fashion industry) is that you have incredible personal style. What role has fashion played in your life?
It plays a huge role. It’s all about storytelling. Since I was a young girl, I’ve always been in love with glamour, disrupting the norm, and finding my voice. Fashion is mute without style. Fashion is my way of communicating and has always played a role in attracting people I want to be interacting with, in business and personally.
What does your daily work wardrobe look like? Are there any ride-or-die pieces that you swear by?
Sneakers, of course! I love mixing sporty and sophisticated. For example, I recently got some Dries Van Noten trousers, and they go great with my Puma suede sneakers. Or I love to pair a printed Prada skirt with a sneaker. Sporty glam is my go-to look every day, and I’ll finish it off with a statement hat and glasses.
I love the simplicity of Jacquemus’s pieces—they always have that perfect combo of sporty and glam. Its pieces are monochromatic, so you can interpret them in different ways and get creative with them.
Courtesy of Elleme; Courtesy of L'Agence; Courtesy of Ganni
No other trend lends itself to being as essential as colorful blazers. They’ll not only add that interesting POV I’m constantly personally vying for, but they also lend themselves to being the perfect transitional piece.
Courtesy of Chloé; Courtesy of Miu Miu; Courtesy of Bottega Veneta
As the creative director of Puma, you’re well aware of what’s happening in the sneaker scene. Can you share which sneaker trends you’re predicting will be significant this spring?
1. Graphic and Colorful Sneakers
Like spring/summer 2022 collections, sneakers for spring are all about doing the most. Embracing bold graphic prints or brightly saturated shoes is ideal as the world slowly begins to reopen and we return to the streets. What better way to stand out than in a pair of statement sneakers?
Every fashion girl has been overhyped about the platform-heel trend, so it only makes sense that platform sneakers would be poppin’ off. They’ll give you the thrill of being high up without the blisters.
Finally, but certainly not the last shoe trend bound to take off this year, I’m predicting that track sneakers will have a moment. With so many collections leaning into athleisurewear, it only makes sense that these shoes would give us a run for their money.