In 2020, a celebrity fashion moment (or faux pas) can come at any given time or place. With the entire Internet eyeing their every move, there’s a really thin line between a star making a statement, like Missy Elliott’s blow-up suit from “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” or becoming a meme that will live forever in social media infamy, à la Fiji Lil Pump.
In the latest episode of our podcast with PUMA, “Represent Yourself,” we caught up with the creative genius behind some of the most unforgettable red carpet and music video fashion moments of our lifetime, June Ambrose. Ambrose was heavily responsible for some of the stand out hip-hop styling moments of the ’90s and ’00s. Working alongside director Hype Williams, Ambrose put Busta Rhymes in space-age armor for the video of “What’s It Gonna Be?!” with Janet Jackson, she got Puff Daddy and Ma$e in shiny suits for “Mo Money Mo Problems” with Notorious B.I.G., and, of course, she blew up Missy Elliot to cartoonish proportions for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).”
Ambrose is not new to understanding just how meaningful a fashion moment can be. Her keen eye and unquestionable know-how in the styling stakes brought her to the attention of PUMA, who recently signed her up as a creative partner, where she will be consulting on the design of key product categories across the brand’s women’s output.
On working with PUMA, June commented: “I mean, it’s ferocious, right? It preys on you in a sense. It prowls. It’s like, sometimes you don’t see it coming. I have all of these kinds of subtexts and phrases and words I think of when working in the capacity that I’ve worked with over the last 20-something years. When you’re in the lab and you’re working on stuff, or you’re thinking about, ‘You know, I’m just going to say just F it. I’m going to put Busta Rhymes in a turban, in a silk-lamé robe.’ Or, ‘I’m going to put sneakers with a gown.’ Just take things out of context and just be kind of rogue, but still be authentic to the spirit of what you’re working on.”
To use a Power Rangers analogy’, June is a Megazord of the fashion industry, embodying the knowledge and gravitas in an array of areas that combine to form the ultimate June Ambrose. But she is a Megazord with humility; her unique style speaks out, it speaks loud, and it represents what Ambrose is about. Unashamed confidence to do things differently and flip the script.
Signature to Ambrose’s styling is her ability to both connect the cultural dots, and the willingness to take a risk and turn things upside down, inside out and back to front. Referring to PUMA’s brand history as a parallel to her approach Ambrose says: “The work that I did in the ’90s, like the Missy Elliott blow-up suit and all of the iconic moments, like ‘Sock It 2 Me,’ all those nutty, and what was over-the-top at the time music videos in hip-hop culture. Even the iconic videos I did with Jay-Z, I’ve worked with him for over 25 years. And then Puffy and the shiny suits […], literally flipping the narrative upside down, [that’s] what kind of happens in the world of PUMA. And what can continue to happen if you take that approach where you don’t necessarily ask for creative license or permission, you take a little bit of a risk, but also maintain a sense of the DNA and the history and the authentic true spirit of the brand?”
Beyond the looks themselves, Ambrose also recognizes the platform she shares with her cohorts and the impact they can have as leaders of the next wave of creatives.
“I think that’s super important from a social, conscious place. There are so many inequalities in race, in gender, in sexuality. And I think that it’s our responsibility, if we have the access and the platform, to lend it to the next generation or for those who don’t have access. I think that just comes along with part of the responsibility of curating, being an editor, being able to give young designers that opportunity. They have their jobs cut out for them. They’re doing their part. Now it’s for someone who’s on the other side of it, that’s on the consumer-facing side of it. I think that’s our responsibility.”
You can listen to the full conversation with June Ambrose whilst scrolling through our ’90s-inspired PUMA Suede lookbook above and check out the other two stories in the series, featuring looks inspired by Suede in the 60’s & 70s.
Be sure to listen to our podcasts with Tommie Smith and Walter “Clyde” Frazier as part of ‘Represent Yourself’ with PUMA on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.