For the first time since its collaborative 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 glistening painted ceilings — the German activewear label's "Futrograde" showcase came just ahead of its 75th anniversary. As its (relatively new) creative director and designer, June Ambrose reintroduced Puma not only with its expected array of comfy athleisure, but, in a surprising twist, also added a number of elevated, high-fashion silhouettes into the mix. The goal? To bring Puma to the forefront of fashion again, says Ambrose.
A few days prior to the show, while squeezing past bustling assistants carrying bulky garment bags and models finishing up 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 in her much-needed jam and toast for the morning.
"We wanted to re-establish iconic moments that the brand has made and we feel that we still can speak to," she says. "It's to create a street style moment with a classic sensibility. That to me is a really nice twist because you'd have to show so much restraint and [try not] to over-design it to tell the story. Instead, there's something quite elegant about the simplicity of it all."
Ahead of the runway show, she visited Puma's headquarters in Germany to research past styles from decades of archives, finding ways to reimagine retro pieces like its T7 classic tracksuits. Ambrose's affinity for Puma's legacy reveals itself in the collection, which pays homage to streetwear, a category in which the brand was a pioneer. Baggy pants, layered ensembles and oversized, exaggerated 'fits nod to what it was doing in the late '90s and early 2000s – all while elevating 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."
Puma also revealed a number of coveted collaborations on the catwalk from the likes of Dapper Dan, Palomo, AC Milan and Koché – all of whom interpreted the brand's heritage in their own ways. In an era of oversaturation and more-is-more, especially in fashion, Puma succeeded in answering what it means to be authentic and to stand out as a heritage brand to its customers.
The show was broken up into three sections and took viewers through a timeline of Puma, celebrating its most iconic markings throughout the industry. Amid the models strutting down the towering catwalk, performers added even more excitement and intrigue to the presentation. They crawled through the runway's mirrored boulders with booming dance sequences, and at times, blended into the stage, becoming props themselves.
On top of this, Puma proved its ability to innovate by looking toward the future, incorporating buzzy technology concepts into the show: It launched a parallel metaverse fashion show experience called Black Station that has exclusive NFTs redeemable for limited-edition physical sneakers. Black Station connects consumers with various web3 activations slated to emerge over the years to come. "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 kind of unique in this thing," Ambrose says.
The Puma team also tapped into the playfulness of the beauty of Blackness, incorporating childhood-favorite hair accessories like colorful hair bobbles, vibrant barrettes, jewel-studded 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 re-establishing that Puma is more than just sports," Ambrose explains. "It's also life and style. I always say life is a sport, and we played into this really confident energy and tapping into our 'AI' – and by 'AI,' I mean authentic intelligence, because there's nothing artificial about how we're approaching this."
The show included both Fall 2022 pieces — which will be available immediately following the show — and others expected to release during Spring 2023. See every look from Puma's runway show below.