For the first time since its collaboration collection with Rihanna’s now defunct fashion house Fenty back in 2017, Puma made its comeback 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 gleaming painted ceilings — the German label’s “Futrograde” show came just before its 75th anniversary. As its (relatively new) creative director and designer, June Ambrose not only reintroduced Puma with its expected range of comfy athleisure, but in a surprising twist also added a range of elevated, high-fashion silhouettes to the mix. The goal? To bring Puma back to the forefront of fashion, says Ambrose.
A few days before the show, as she squeezed past busy assistants with large garment bags and models finishing their final castings, Ambrose took a moment to chat with me about the brand’s anticipated return to New York Fashion Week—all while cramming her very – needed marmalade and toast for the morning.
“We wanted to re-establish iconic moments that the brand has created and we feel we can still speak to,” she says. “It’s to create a street style moment with a classic sensibility. It’s a really good twist for me because you have to show so much restraint and [try not] to over-design it to tell the story. Instead, there is something quite elegant about it all.”
Ahead of the runway show, she visited Puma’s headquarters in Germany to research past styles from decades of archives and find ways to recreate retro pieces like its classic T7 tracksuits. Ambrose’s affinity for Puma’s heritage is evident in the collection, which celebrates streetwear, a category the brand pioneered. Baggy pants, layered ensembles and oversized, exaggerated fits nod to what it did in the late 90s and early 2000s – all while lifting and looking towards the future of the brand.
“When you trace things back to where they began, you discover so many beautiful things,” she reflects. “The show was really to highlight select products within the brand in the lifestyle fashion space.”
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Puma also revealed a number of coveted collaborations on the catwalk from e.g Great Dan, Palomo, AC Milan and Koché – all of whom interpreted the brand’s heritage in their own way. In an era of oversaturation and more-is-more, especially in fashion, Puma managed to answer what it means to be authentic and to stand out as a heritage brand for its customers.
Split into three sections, the show took viewers through a timeline of Puma celebrating its most iconic marks across the industry. Amid the models strutting down the towering catwalk, artists added even more excitement and intrigue to the presentation. They crawled through the mirrored boulders of the runway with booming dance sequences, and at times they blended into the stage and became props themselves.
On top of this, Puma proved its ability to innovate by looking to the future and incorporating busy technology concepts into the show: it launched a parallel metaverse fashion show experience called Black Station that has exclusive NFTs can be redeemed for limited edition physical sneakers. Black Station connects consumers with various web3 activations expected to emerge in the coming years. “It’s still the unknown, so it’s nice that you can have this non-tangible product and have a tangible product to actually witness it, which is something unique about this thing,” Ambrose says.
The Puma team also tapped into the playful beauty of Blackness, incorporating childhood favorite hair accessories like colorful hair bobbles, vibrant barrettes, jeweled clips and more into the show. Other accessory highlights include otherworldly hats, maxi-totes and chunky sneakers.
“[I’m excited] to celebrate my contribution to the culture, my work over the years in this space with this global brand and to re-establish that Puma is more than just sport,” explains Ambrose. “It’s also life and style. I always say life is a sport and we played into this really confident energy and harnessed our ‘AI’ – and by ‘AI’ I mean authentic intelligence because there’s nothing artificial about how we approach 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.