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Rihanna, Formula 1, and the Future of Puma

We talked about it with Heiko Desens, Global Creative Director of PUMA Sportstyle

 Rihanna, Formula 1, and the Future of Puma  We talked about it with Heiko Desens, Global Creative Director of PUMA Sportstyle

In the diverse world of sportswear, 2023 has been a year of significant milestones, where the line between lifestyle and performance has blurred to the point of disappearance. Successful collaborations, TikTok trends, and the renewed desire for genuine comfort in clothing have marked this as the year of sportswear, with Puma standing out prominently. With 6.9 billion TikTok views and 15.8 million Instagram tags, the German brand has maximized its presence in a viral wave that shows no signs of diminishing. The real key to success? Nostalgia and some familiar faces. The unexpected return of the collaboration with Rihanna, paused in 2017, has reignited the enthusiasm of fans and a community that has grown on the platform of the iconic creepers in their Ankle Strap, Pointy, and now Phatty variations with extra padding, layered crepe rubber sole, and bold color accents. Regarding the relaunch, the second drop of the revived partnership, and the future intersections between sportswear and high fashion, and more broadly, the future of the brand, we spoke with Heiko Desens, Global Creative Director of PUMA Sportstyle.

«The creepers hit the market like a storm years ago, creating a new trend. We would like to replicate that success, of course. We followed many of the conversations about what the fan community wanted, and every post said, 'we want the creepers, we want the creepers, we want the creepers.' We just listened to the fans» Heiko recounts, emphasizing the need for authenticity that drives every brand partnership: «With Rihanna, it's all about what she feels at this moment, in a phase of change where she is more relevant than ever in the scene». The first drop of the collaboration with Fenty, the Avanti L, indeed responded to the artist's passion for football culture: «Football is a universal language that brings people from all over the world, from every social class, and I wanted to pay homage to this» she declared to FN about it. But the shoe is not only the natural outcome of a passion; it also highlights a shift in consumer taste toward a vintage-inspired sporty aesthetic: «Football influences design, leaning towards a look strongly tied to archives. It's retrospective but at the same time cutting-edge, with designs from the past, and it's really growing on the shelves and in sales. This is our domain, almost our birthplace, and, of course, we still intend to draw from our past for new models».

@nssmagazine Ottolinger just showed in Paris its new collection, premiering a Puma collaboration What do you think? #paris #pfw #pfw23 #parisfashionweek #fashionshow #ottolinger #puma #collaboration #fashiontiktok #tiktokfashion original sound - nss magazine

Among the viral collaborations of the year, the one with Ottolinger enchanted Paris during fashion week, combining the apocalyptic soul of the Berlin-based brand with performance through a collection inspired by Formula 1. «With Rihanna, we had a fantastic experience with the first collaboration, and she has always been part of the family, so it was a natural decision to continue. But in the fashion field, when we choose partners, we always have to establish a dialogue first. We opened up the collaboration game in the high fashion sector with very avant-garde brands like McQueen. They were all skeptical, wondering what we were doing, but now they look back and appreciate those releases. We want the consumer to perceive Puma as almost an underdog. We allow ourselves to do different things than other sports companies, and that's why we connected with Ottolinger; they were really out of the box and were betting seriously. We felt a real connection with them.» The starting point in design was the Mostro, reissued in both sneaker and boot variants, inspired by the 1999 model's design, one of the brand's best-selling and iconic models, featuring the distinctive double velcro strap closure.

According to Desens, after football, the sport most suitable for breaking the performance bubble to penetrate lifestyle and streets is undoubtedly racing, in which Puma plays a leading role with its sleek, low-to-the-ground silhouettes. «Motorsport is experiencing a massive comeback, already consolidated commercially, especially with the Formula 1 race in Las Vegas and the partnership with Asap. It's a great opportunity for us; we're partners with Ferrari, and we have the opportunity to take racing apparel to the next level, turning it into fashion and simultaneously reworking sportswear into a more sophisticated version for the street. The trend has already gathered incredible success, but not the level of saturation; it can, in fact, embrace a niche in fashion that is still unexplored, after the social charge that made it mainstream». The future of Puma involves dives into the past but also technological research and avant-garde, especially in apparel, an area where the brand has not yet shown its true potential.

«We are on track for the development of high-performance and innovative clothing concepts. Investments and development times are quite long, so we are looking towards 2025, but it's only a matter of time. We have invested over the years in returning to performance; we have incredible success in football and quality products in all categories. Our goal is clear, to invest in the future of performance. I think sports, in general, always influence consumers in lifestyle, so if you are a good sportswear brand, lifestyle success will come naturally. In the end, it's all about authenticity.».