Puma conquers Wall Street with Usain Bolt and Skepta
Usain Bolt staged his victory gesture in New York late Tuesday night, but on a Puma catwalk near Wall Street, and not on a race track.
The Olympic champion took the final passage at the German active sports brand’s Futrograde event, an immersive blend of runway show, digital display and multi-collab unveiling.
Bolt appearing in a black and white tracksuit, except the jacket had morphed into a gentlemanly sporting evening tailcoat. Throwing his hands in the air as he exited the catwalk to ignite a huge burst of applause by the audience inside 25 Broadway, a soaring first-class waiting room for pre-WWII passenger liners so grand that several Puma fans said it reminded them of the Sistine Chapel.
Usain’s runway date: Winnie Harlow, vamping it up in an all-black crystal-encrusted track top and a Marie Antoinette-worthy sporty crinoline.
Parallel to its fashion fete, Puma had launched a metaverse experience entitled Black Station, offering exclusive NFTs with limited edition physical sneakers. A 3D canvas, Black Station will provide web3 activations throughout the coming months.
Evoked by giant screens running along the walls of the show space, the brand’s greatest football ambassador Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. even made an appearance, albeit in a 3D digital projection on the flanking screens, scanned weeks before the show.
All sorts of fashion fantasies populated this show, including a giant inflated flesh bubble woman, her back finished with Puma's signature leaping panther. While two troupes of dancers in tech-stretch looks fought mock West-Side-stories battles spasmodically on the elevated runway.
Although the main action was on the catwalk, opening with a downtown section focusing on sustainable streetwear, rifling through an array of partnerships - from the AC Milan football team and Dapper Dan tailored looks to collabs with hipster designers like Palomo Spain and Koché, whose founder Christelle Kocher sat front-row.
Boasting very much the youngest audience of New York Fashion Week, many of which shows tend to be populated with elderly socialites, Puma hosted Brooklyn Beckham, Cindy Bruno, Christian Combs, Joey Badass and Remi Bader, along with Skepta.
Post-show, the UK rapper staged a dynamic performance on stage, elaborately choreographed, while a series entitled Luxe Sport featured great sinful red leather track pants and suits; tech dusters and flamenco dresses and chunky thigh-boots with uber-wide side stripes.
“We wanted to show a wide spectrum of stories and New York has the open arms to welcome that sort of idea. To speak about the archives, the future, technology and our links to streetwear culture,” explained Heiko Desens, Puma’s global creative director.
The brand is also very adept at adapting its offer for local markets. A prime example was a series of natty sporty hijabs, sure to find a huge audience in the Gulf where women love to wear the headgear with logos. Desens’ design team occasionally went into overdrive with brilliant deconstructed assemblages of puffers and racing gear that recalled Comme des Garçons or Junya Watanabe.
Puma will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, and this show was also a brilliant exposition of its DNA with a twist. Like logo-print stretch ice racer suits; its iconic form-stripe sneakers; or great new gothic-soled loafers dreamed up by Palomo Spain designer Alejandro Palomo.
“I love the way Puma has created this fashion identity that is so different from other sports brands,” commented Palomo, who joined hundreds of the audience on the catwalk when it turned into a post-show dance floor.
Given this powerful performance, little wonder Puma has bounced back so quickly from the pandemic. Sales soared 30% in 2021 to €6.805 billion.
Quoted on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange since 1986, Puma’s main shareholder is the Kering group and the Pinault family's investment company, Artemis.
After this smash-hit show, maybe they should think of moving to Wall Street permanently?
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