June Ambrose on Designing Puma's First Women's Basketball Collection

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If you've watched a hip-hop music video from the '90s, it was probably styled by June Ambrose. She has had her hand in some of the most iconic videos for hip-hop's biggest stars, from Missy Elliot to Jay-Z.

Since then, Ambrose has done everything from starring in her own TV show to becoming a published author. Now, she has taken on a new title: creative director of Puma.

In her role at Puma, Ambrose is working across multiple categories within the company. Just this month, Ambrose debuted Puma's first-ever women's basketball collection, called Puma High Court, a mixture of clothing and accessories inspired by the marriage of basketball and streetwear. 

Listen to Ambrose share some of her favorite moments from the '90s styling hip-hop's most recognizable faces, what it was like working with Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the recent Tiffany & Co. campaign, and so much more on the latest episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr

For some excerpts from her interview, scroll below.

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We had so much fun on Second Life talking about your entire career—from finance, styling music videos, being recognized as the cultural image maker that you are today, and everything in between. Since then, you've also added another massive title to your résumé, which is that you are the creative director for Puma's Women's Hoops. 

It's really exciting to be able to launch a division for such an iconic brand such as Puma. So that part is really exciting. Huge responsibility, but one that I'm extremely enthusiastic about taking on and moving this particular conversation forward: women in basketball.

How did those conversations start?

The conversation originally started with Jay-Z and Emory Jones. We didn't know that it was going to be women's basketball initially. When I went into the Puma office and sat with Adam Petrick and when I met the CEO of Puma at an event, we hadn't yet decided that this is what we wanted to do.

I think they had in mind that they wanted to speak to this particular sector, and then once I came into the office to really think about where I would be most effective and serve and where the white space was, that was on the table. I said, "I would love to take that on. I think that no one's really taking a stylish approach to sportswear."

At the time, I don't think the other brands had launched their women's basketball apparel pieces. It was all kind of happening as we were developing stuff. I think everybody was in that frame of mind. Like, what's next?

I thought it was so interesting that the collection has such a wonderful and varied price point that on the low end is $30 on the high end is closer to $400.

I wanted it to be approachable but still elevated. I didn't want to alienate any specific income. I also wanted to teach women how to put things together. One of my core competencies is styling. I recognize that I have the ability to do both. As you're designing the collection, I'm thinking about how I can merchandise this so many different ways.

When you purchase even just one piece, it has meaning, and that one piece is going to be a punctuation piece. But then how do you integrate it into your 
wardrobe? I want to encourage people to do that.

Sportswear is no longer just for performance. After the pandemic, we all came out in slippers and sweatpants. I don't think that's going anywhere. You know, sports bras are being worn under cardigans and blazers now. You're wearing your sports bra with your trousers.

I'm saying to the customer, "This is why you shop with me because I'm thinking about your lifestyle. I'm thinking about your pocket. I'm thinking about what's important to you."

Can we talk about the Tiffany & Co. campaign? The Carters were amazing in it. Obviously, you had a very strong hand in everything. Can we talk about how that project came together? The symbolism in the project? How you were thinking about the fashion in it?

It was the most top-secret. We had code names. There were no emails with their names on it. That part has always been the fun. Working on these top-secret projects and then waiting for them to embargo.

When I got the call, I just immediately thought, How freakin' genius.

It's not even like Tiffany's needed to be reinvented. It was like, how do you reimagine it? How do you bring it into a now and still preserve the integrity of the brand? What better two icons to do that?

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring Saturday Night Live star Heidi Gardner. 

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