Every season is a winning season for June Ambrose. With an iconic career as a celebrity stylist that spans over two decades and an enduring influence on revolving fashion trends, June Ambrose is your favorite stylist’s favorite stylist.
After 25+ years of dressing her roster of high-end clientele (Jay Z, Missy Elliott, and Diddy, just to name a few), Ambrose has added Creative Director to her resume as the designer behind Puma’s first-ever women’s basketball collection, “High Court.” Still, while her collaboration with the sports fashion house is her baby; motherhood might be her greatest role.
When I catch up with Ambrose for our cover story interview, she greets me with a simple, but charming, “Hello Beautiful.” She looks relaxed and cozy in a PANGAIA Hoodie, her straight hair with a middle part, accentuating her high cheekbones. Ever the multi-tasker, as we chat, she is perusing through fragrances with a voice off-screen. This tiny, intimate moment of her sniffing the fragrances, feeling them by hand, and figuring out which one to pick, offers me a glimpse of what her time as a Creative Director at Puma typically looks like.
The wardrobe wizard has always been at the forefront of fashion. Her reputation as a fearless connoisseur of clothing is the reason why so many women, especially Black women like myself, connect with her on a deeper level. It is also what Ambrose hopes to convey in her High Court Collection.
“I’m hoping that it will connect with a woman who is not just an athlete, but looks at life as a sport, that she can see herself as bold and brazen and fearless,” Ambrose shared. “You know, this collection is to celebrate female basketball players but, when you think about it, even women off the court have the same extraordinary abilities; she just might have to identify what her superpower is.”
“Women do all that naturally—we play defense, we play hard, we play to win,” Ambrose continued. “I’m hoping that that woman can see herself wanting to you know, wanting to just not blend in, but kind of be really iconic and take some risk.”
That multi-tasking, modern-day renaissance woman, whom she both embodies and designs for, is full of skill, determination, focus, and the know-how to balance the ebbs and flows of life. June is no stranger to experiencing burnout, but she has found that her work truly thrives when she takes the time to protect her energy. “It takes focus and sometimes being a bit more reclusive,” she explained. “It’s the incubation period. You’ll have to compromise and show restraint, but it’s like a meal. You know you’ll get the dessert at the end so there’s something to look forward to. For me, every social moment is a celebration and I look forward to socializing when the work is done and I’ve created something new.”
Ambrose also wants the “High Court Collection” to help women and binary non-conforming people open up and find their own voices during difficult conversations. “I’m hoping that women can see [themselves] wanting to just not blend in, but be really iconic and take some risks. I think there’s something about that. As a collective, if we encourage each other to say, ‘this is a movement,’ I think that’s what I want women to take away from this. It’s okay to have your own voice, it’s okay to walk your walk and talk your own talk.”
Risk has always been a central factor in June Ambrose’s life. Leaving her stable job in finance after college to explore the unpredictable world of costume design and fashion styling would’ve never occurred without some risk. But without her fearlessness, the world would’ve missed out on her involvement with rebranding Jay Z from a city-slick rapper to a dashing fashion icon, the cinematic magic she created when she teamed up with Hype Williams on Belly, as well as the transcendent music video style collaborations with the Bad Boy crew and Missy Elliott, which cemented her name in hip-hip history
June has seen a reemergence of Y2K streetwear trends on social media with the Gen-Z generation exploring the culture-shifting styles of that decade – a style that Ambrose pioneered throughout her career. “From the music videos to my current projects, it’s always been about merging high fashion and streetwear – sport couture. The shiny suits are also a staple,” Ambrose said, referring to her impact in the fashion world. For Ambrose, seeing the younger generation revisiting and reimagining streetwear is rewarding. “It shows that I was able to create something timeless that made an impact,” she says with pride. “That’s part of making history – I drew references from things and people before me. I used what my ancestors gave me. I’m intentional about wanting to impact time and culture and it was natural to create things to be passed on to the next generation.”
Keeping up with future generations can be a challenging feat for some, especially since social media has become central to our modern cultural zeitgeist. However, the daunting landscape of these platforms doesn’t intimidate her. She finds a lot of inspiration through social media now and navigates the rapidly evolving internet with confidence. “Well, there’s an entire alternate universe,” Ambrose says with confidence. “People can sell merchandise and receive immediate gratification, that’s changed the landscape of how consumers engage with retail tremendously. This is the future of how you consume content; I can look at something, love it, and get it.” Even though the consumption of content is at an all-time high, so is the infringement and imitation of original content with little-to-no credit. Ambrose wants to see less relinquishment of original ideas and more sustainability by building out within the fashion community, instead of up.
“Ownership. I want to see the foundation of fashion houses evolve and be able to sustain with more than just institutional money,” Ambrose shares. “A lot of people ask for permission and help from these specific entities but I’d love for us to come together and build on our own, to infiltrate the industry with each other.”
As many seasoned vets in the game of life know, with risk, comes the promise of reward, and June is seeing many positive rewards from her collection with Puma. “I’ve seen that this collection is speaking to multi-generational type [of] consumers,” Ambrose said, satisfaction on her face and in her voice. “The fact that we can be on the backs of a 16-year-old to a 55-year-old is quite extraordinary. I think it’s a testament to how the world is seeing each other now.”
“The multi-generational conversation is a little bit more prevalent now than ever,” June continued. “For me, it is exciting because I have a 17-year-old and 20-year-old, it’s amazing being able to unapologetically hang out with them and look just like them.” Ambrose isn’t the only style maven in her family, she also notes that her children, Chance (20) and Summer (17), are coming into their own sense of style as well. “It’s fun to see them play with sportswear, they take it and make it appropriate in so many different settings. Summer rocks the PUMA sneakers with dresses and Chance is bringing motorsport sneakers into street style with oversized denim. They do cool things with both scale and fit.”
June Ambrose’s relationship with her children morphs and evolves every day — something she is unabashedly proud of. “I have two disruptors that I’ve raised and I’ve watched them find their own way, my kids Chance and Summer. They don’t feel pressure to be in fashion or do what others have done, they have conviction and have found their own voice,” she said. “Summer is so creative and does her own thing, you can tell she doesn’t adhere to the societal pressure a lot of young women face. Chance has found a balance between finance and art, which I think is great and something many people don’t know how to combine,” the modern matriarch added. “When you’re raising kids, you really focus on them. I do also see that young people have a lot more access to info these days and that makes a big difference, they’re smarter.” Not only does June take note of her children’s strong sense of autonomy, she feels inspired by them as well.
“They inspire me every day,” June proudly exclaimed. “I love that they are well-rounded humans who are thoughtful and have great creative expression. It’s inspiring that they understand they can articulate so much by what they wear, how they speak, and how they treat others.”
One thing that Ambrose hopes that her children take away from her life’s work is to appreciate that feeling of impacting at least one person with their talents. “I want them to be able to share their art and creativity and know that they’ll be remembered for the feeling people get when they experience it. I always try to sprinkle a little June joy in everything that I touch.”
Indeed, it’s that “June joy” that serves as an inspirational mood board for all Black women who just need that little push to take their leap of faith. Even Ambrose finds herself still feeling inspired while reminiscing on her past, and feeling proud seeing her contributions across different mediums come to life. “Becoming an author was a really proud moment for me. I still consider it a classic in the sense that you’re able to still draw references from it that are important to developing one’s style. That was important in creating my own legacy, on a commercial level,” Ambrose said. “There’s also the costume designs that I created that are now inducted to places like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and places like that. Overall, the fact that I’m still able to contribute to celebratory and iconic moments… I’ll always be proud of that.”
More From Our Mother’s Day Issue: