At 28, June Ambrose Made Her First Major Fashion Splurge
The stylist, costume designer, author, and creative director talks her collection with Puma, and what life was like at 28.
In 1997, two years before June Ambrose turned 28, she blessed the world with the iconic, blow-up bodysuit from Missy Elliot’s The Rain video. The famed stylist and creative director is responsible for some of the most culture-shaping fashion moments over the past 30 years, including on longtime clients like Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, and more.
Today, at 50, she is still looking to her younger self for inspiration. “I always tap back into the fearlessness of when I didn’t have the responsibilities I have now,” she told Bustle. “I remind myself that 28-year-old me wasn’t afraid to ask. I check back in with my young self to ask — ‘what was it that made you not afraid to live out loud?’”
That fearlessness has led to an expansive career, spanning three decades in all aspects of designing, styling, and creative direction — as in, her current position at Puma. She joined the sports brand back in 2020, and in December 2021 debuted their first collection (a women’s basketball line). The High Court collection was designed with gender neutrality in mind, as well as versatility and ease of wear — pieces that can be worn both on and off the court.
“The collection is for any and everyone,” she said. “It speaks to a woman’s curves, it speaks to her youth, her boldness, her fearlessness. When you think about our women in the WNBA — they are women, they are wives, they are mothers. They play many roles. This collection celebrates their superpower, their ability to beat the odds. They go at it in a very brave way, and that’s inspiring to me. When people wear this collection, I want them to feel beautiful, I want them to feel sexy — youthful, gangster.”
After years of helping clients, and now customers, feel all those things and more, Ambrose looks back at her life at 28 — where she was professionally, where she was shopping, and how that time led her to where she is now.
Take me back to 1999 — when you were 28. What were you doing career-wise?
I left corporate America — investment banking — when I was 28. I was working in marketing at a clothing brand called Cross Colours. I had been in corporate business for five years — so I was risking it all, because I left a corporate job to start my own business. But I was determined to have a good time while doing it, and I was in the position to go full-steam ahead. And that’s what I did.
Is that when you started working with Jay-Z?
I had met Jay before he was an artist. I was working with his record label, after I left the clothing brand, and wanted to focus on building my company and my agency. I was taking on clients at the time. It was a full service agency — we were doing everything from advertising, to album covers, to music videos, to costume designing, and then helping artists develop those things for new labels, like Roc-A-Fella Records. That’s how I met Jay. We’ve been working together since then.
What did a typical weekend look like for you at 28?
I used to love hosting dinner parties. If I wasn’t working, I did something very therapeutic, which was cooking. I loved entertaining, I loved having friends over. I looked at food like fashion, so I just enjoyed it. I would make charcuterie boards and great meals that were colorful to the palette. We would just unwind, plot, and plan with like-minded people. It was a village.
I bet you make an epic charcuterie board.
I do! I love charcuterie. It gets me so excited. It’s so much fun.
What was your biggest fashion splurge at the time?
Oh, I’ll never forget this. I was walking down Fifth Avenue and I saw this woman with an alligator belt buckle. She was an older, very astute white woman. I remember stopping her and saying “oh my god, that’s so striking. Where did you get it?” And she was like “oh, it’s Barry Kieselstein-Cord.” And I didn’t know who that was – at the time, we didn’t have Google. So I went home and did my research and discovered the brand. I went and bought the buckle. It was my first splurge. I still have it to this day.
How did it feel to buy it?
Buying a $2,500 belt buckle was a big deal then. It’s so scary when you do it because — especially as a freelancer — you’re like, “OK, I’m spending over $2,000. Am I going to make this back?”
What else was part of your signature style back then?
It was like, urban high-fashion. It was glamorous. I was wearing combat boots and long gowns. I was that girl. I loved mixing and matching, and everything had an urban touch to it, because I just thought it was so authentic to the things I loved seeing. It was the juxtaposition of wearing a Gucci pinstripe suit with a baseball cap. There was just something about it.
What were your goals at 28?
I thought about retirement. I thought about what age I wanted to retire — or if not retire, be doing something else that I was just as passionate about. I wanted to own property. That was important to me, having something I could leave behind for my kids, or could potentially be an investment if everything went tits up. Also, I was raised in a single-parent home — my mom worked really hard and I just thought...I didn’t want her to always have to work. When I hit 30, I retired my mom and that was it.
That’s so inspiring. What do you think your 28-year-old self would think about you now?
She’d be proud. She would say “wow, you’re still having fun, huh?” Because I feel 28 still. She’d probably be doing the dance with me right now.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.