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June Ambrose Opens Up About Being a Disrupter, Authentic Intelligence & Hip-Hop’s Dominance at FN CEO Summit

at the FN CEO Summit 2023 held at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach on April 20, 2023 in Miami Beach, Florida.
June Ambrose and Adam Petrick on stage at the FN CEO Summit.
Justin Namon for Footwear News

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, one of the culture’s most influential talents — and the architect of Jay Z’s iconic style — hit the FN CEO Summit stage on Thursday to talk about her legendary career.

Stylist, costume designer and creative director June Ambrose — who is the creative director of women’s hoops at Puma — sat down with Puma global chief brand officer Adam Petrick for an engaging conversation about her unique journey, how she’s growing younger and why being authentic is the key to being culturally relevant.

“Ultimately, having cultural connectivity is critical. But it’s not easy, right?” Petrick noted. “Consumer culture is shifting all the time. So it’s our jobs to try and figure out how to continue to be relevant on a regular and ongoing basis.”

Here are some of Ambrose’s most inspiring quotes from the insightful conversation.

Crafting a vision for Puma’s new women’s basketball division:

“Life is a sport, and I like to play to win. I’m a disrupter. I’m not afraid to push the envelope and take risks because, as a leader, you have that responsibility. I knew that we wanted to mix performance, fashion and function. That was the key thing. I thought about the curvy lines of a woman’s body, but also thought about performance. The basketball short is more colorful and playful [than is typical], and it’s polarizing. It got the reaction we wanted. I took the kind of Home Shopping Network approach to it. I was in front of it. I wasn’t afraid to speak on behalf of these women.”

Pushing talents out of their comfort zone:

“Every music artist that I’ve ever worked with — I’ve always made them uncomfortable. Because that’s what growing and experiencing life is all about. If you don’t get butterflies when you’re doing something, then you have to question yourself. It should make you feel nervous.”

Growing young:

“I’m the woman who is constantly asking her young self for permission to be curious, for permission to do things that are risky. Because that’s what we did when we were younger. You never grow old. You grow young. And I want to approach everything in that way.”

Staying approachable:

“You can have punctuation and be very edgy and interesting looking … but I think approachability is the best compliment you can ever give someone like myself.”

Hip-hop’s influence on style:

“What was really fun about developing product for Puma was that I was able to bring street culture, which is really driving every genre of fashion now, from the luxury space to the commercial space. Hip-hop culture is the No. 1 genre of music in the world. I had those dreams and aspirations coming up, that it wouldn’t be seen as a secular kind of music. It would be a global conversation. I’m always thinking globally.”

Blazing trails for the next generation:

“I came to America as an immigrant child. I grew up in the South Bronx in the home of hip-hop in a single-parent home. And I worked in investment banking. I studied arts and design. And, you know, I need to tell that story. Because it gives me texture. It gives me relevance. This is a story that young kids who look like me — and don’t look like me — can [hear about] and know it is possible for them. But you have to put the work in and you have to be true to yourself.”

Avoiding cultural appropriation:

“If you personally partner with those who have had the experience and you don’t just let them talk but you go with them and you learn, you become students. That experience changes everything. It becomes part of your cultural experience. [With cultural appropriation], if you acknowledge the fact that ‘this is where it came from,’ if you celebrate what’s inspired you, then you’re not guilty of anything. If it’s something you can stand behind, your intentions are pure. The key is not to water it down.”

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FN CEO Summit: June Ambrose on Her Game-Changing Work at Puma, Hip-Hop
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