4 photographers respond creatively to the Puma Suede MAYU

Here's what they shot in London, Milan, Berlin and Copenhagen.

by i-D Staff
|
Mar 30 2021, 11:45am

When creating art that reflects the times we're living in, the spaces we inhabit and the people we're aligned with, collaboration is vital. After all, to distil the essence of one's community, an artist must connect with their subjects meaningfully. It's a mantra that Puma believe in and, with the launch of their new Suede Mayu, one they're looking to tell through the stories of four rising photographers. 

Here, Puma has enlisted these artists -- in London, Milan, Berlin and Copenhagen -- to collaborate with their friends on a shoot that reflects the presence and energy of this new sneaker. Inspired by the irreverence of the Puma Mayu, and its playful take on a classic style, the following images speak to the individuality of the wearer and artist, their unapologetic spirit, and a commitment to their craft, not to mention the importance of creative partnership.

ID_Magazine_x_Puma_Chris_Calmer-01.jpg
Photography Chris Calmer. Models Chili Dia and May Simon.

Copenhagen

Chris Calmer is a photographer born and raised in Copenhagen. He started experimenting with photography at the age of 14 and moved onto more focused work at around 20. Now, his pastel-coloured cut-and-paste aesthetic is confident and well-defined; his images elevating every subject to a playful and joyful space. "I like to challenge the perception of good taste," he says. "My work and ideas always come from a place of humour and, to an extent, the 'wrong' aesthetics. Fashion imagery is often very serious, so it's interesting to me to break free from that."

Here, he has collaborated with his friends May and Chili to celebrate the Puma MAYU.

What in particular about the Suede MAYU appealed to your aesthetic as a photographer?  
I really appreciate the shape and respect the decision to rethink a classic like the Suede. Especially for image-makers like myself that love to visually challenge the notion of less is more, the fact Puma is moving in the direction of more experimentation with their style is really wonderful. As a photographer, I'm always trying to reinvent and push myself creatively, so I relate to the approach of reinventing a classic. I'm very attracted to the camp aesthetic cause its in that "culture" that queer people like myself often find they can be unapologetically themselves and find solace. I think the shoes could be viewed as camp, in that way. I love that.

Your images play with scale beautifully, can you explain why the project and, therefore, the shoe inspired you to follow that creative approach? 
There is something silly and playful about working with scale like this. It's very surrealistic and "absurd". I wanted to use something very recognisable about Copenhagen, the coloured buildings and make it even brighter and more surreal. It was also a choice that we look into the camera -- very here we are, look at us.  

My creative approach was very focused on showing us in the city in an untraditional way. The idea of making us into giants made perfect sense for this. It was very much about feeling empowered, like a superhero. The Suede Mayu literally makes you a lot taller, so there is a fun connection in that way as well. The digital construction of the architecture was inspired by postcards that show the different landmarks in Copenhagen. 

ID_Magazine_x_Puma_Chris_Calmer-02.jpg
Photography Chris Calmer

This project was about shooting a friend and working collaboratively on the process of making these images. Tell us a little bit about your creative partnership here.
Honesty is very important in creative partnerships. You have that instantly working with friends. It was very intimate creating these images, primarily because I'm in them. Though I have been in front of a camera before, I'm definitely not as confident in that scenario as May and Chili. They helped me get into it. That is what friends are for.

How does the notion of Pushing Boundaries or Breaking the rules inform your approach and style when shooting the Suede MAYU, and how does it manifest in these particular images?
I believe being yourself is inherently rebellious. Walking the streets, in your own shoes, with your own style, as who you are. I think that is very powerful, and I wanted to express that in these images. Giant superheroes!

How does your city, Copenhagen, inform your creativity and artistic vision and what can we observe of this in your photography?
These images are very much a "postcard" from Copenhagen. From me to everyone. I think it's important to use what is around you as inspiration in any creative profession. When you let yourself observe the cityscape and nature objectively, it can re-inspire your view of the city.

EDIT1.jpg
Photography Agatha Powa. Model Zoey Lee.

Berlin 

Agatha Powa currently lives in Berlin but was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and grew up first in Cologne, then in London. As a child, she fell in love with using her grandfather's Polaroid camera and her mum's classic point-and-shoot. "I always had some type of point-and-shoot I would take with me on trips and gigs throughout my youth," she says. These days her work utilises vibrant colour and beautiful faces to paint a sanguine view of the world, even through challenging moments. "I believe that the beauty in portraiture lies within the connection we can create between us human beings," she says.

Here, she has collaborated with her friend Zoey to celebrate the Puma MAYU.

Tell us about what you took from the look and messaging of the Suede MAYU and applied to your imagery.
First of all I thought about who I would like to shoot this with and Zoey was one of the first who came to mind because of her unique and bold style. From the way she dresses to the way she carries herself -- unapologetically Zoey. 

I chose the locations because they were all in areas I frequently spend my time in since lockdown. The Suede Mayu is so playful with its design, the chunky sole and colour combo; it suits our belief that fashion is what you make it and inspired us to be playful with our shooting approach. 

I moved house not too long ago, so it was a nice incentive to walk around my fairly new neighbourhood with a fresh pair of eyes and pay attention to visual details without knowing what it is I’m exactly looking for. That’s how we ended up shooting in locations such as kids playgrounds and random constructions in the middle of the road. 

EDIT2.jpg
Photography Agatha Powa. Model Zoey Lee.

This project was about shooting a friend and working collaboratively on the process of making these images. Tell us a little bit about your creative partnership here. 
I've wanted to shoot Zoey for a while now. She's a dope documentary filmmaker, and we met exhibiting together. We just had a fun day walking around, philosophising about life, whilst discovering locations that sparked inspiration connected to our outfits. I love freestyling like that. You never know what you will get, and that makes it even more special and exciting when the final results turn out more beautiful than you could have imagined.

What features of Suede Mayu resonated with your sense of style? 
I'm a sucker for chunky soles and playful colours. The Suede Mayu offers both. I particularly like the shade of red. It's popping but still soft -- a beautiful tone which is easier to pair with a variety of colours. As I move about a lot when shooting, the most important bit to me is that a sneaker is comfy, which is luckily is the case here.

_LAU3297.jpg
Photography Laurent Bentil. Model Perla Ventura.

Milan

Laurent Bentil is a photographer based in Milan, originally from Brescia in the north of Italy. He's been shooting for five years now, capturing the energy of the Italian fashion capital and the creative scene that makes it so unique. "I was raised by immigrants, so I've been through many things in life," he says. Laurent still views his craft as a work in process, testing out new formats and evolving his imagery with every passing day. "For now, I would say my style is still in evolution," he says. "I'm still working to find my spot in this industry."

Here, he has collaborated with his friend Perla to celebrate the Puma MAYU.

Tell us about what you took from the look and messaging of the Suede MAYU and applied to your imagery.
The Puma MAYU gives me some kind of exotic, Caribbean wave. As soon as I received the pack, the first thing I noticed was the over-exaggerated sole. All those amazing curves and lines reminded me of a 360 vision, so I decided to shoot this project on a fisheye lens. I wanted to make the trainer look even bigger in my images.

This project was about shooting a friend and working collaboratively on the process of making these images. Tell us a little bit about your creative partnership here. 
As soon as the creative team told me they loved Perla, I was so happy because I knew everything was gonna be so natural and real. This is just us showcasing a regular afternoon in Milan between us.

_LAU3524.jpg
Photography Laurent Bentil. Model Perla Ventura

How does your city, Milan, inform your creativity and artistic vision and what can we observe of this in your photography?
Milan is an amazing historic Roman city, and we have plenty of beautiful old monuments like the Duomo and Castello Sforzesco, arcs like the Porta Romana and the Arco Della Pace, so when I'm walking around the city the most of the time, I'm walking with my head up, looking for interesting architecture. I'm also always looking for interesting people and crazy looks, and fortunately, Milano is an extremely advanced city in terms of streetwear and fashion. Milan's fashion and design is pure fuel for my vision; it gives me so much inspiration for my photography.

What features of Suede Mayu resonated with your sense of style?
I'm a huge Jay-Z fan, so Suedes have always been part of my lifestyle. 

2N3A0156_R2.jpg
Photography Olivia Lifungula. Model Jordan Clarke.

London

Olivia Lifungula is a photographer based in south-east London. Following the civil war in Congo, at eight years old, she and her family moved to Belgium, her first time in Europe and her last time in Congo since. At 20, she moved to London. Her images are about feeling "feminine, soft, intimate and real" and celebrating the love inside her community. "It's always been a little tough growing up as a Black kid and witnessing so much violence and trauma towards the people that look like me. Creating work that showcases a different reality is perhaps my way of protesting that."

Here, she has collaborated with her friend Jordan to celebrate the Puma Suede MAYU.

Tell us about what you took from the look and messaging of the Suede MAYU and applied to your imagery.
My go-to style is always fashionable but comfortable, which is why I fell in love with sneakers in the first place. The Suede Mayu fit both criteria perfectly. I knew I wanted to create an image that expresses that by doing something unapologetically feminine with Jordan sitting in a garden, surrounded by flowers and trees. I also needed it to feel daring and carefree by looking at how Jordan is sitting and taking up space on the frame.

This project was about shooting a friend and working collaboratively on the process of making these images. Tell us a little bit about your creative partnership here. 
Jordan is like a little sister to me, and we were really intentional about wanting this to be fun for both of us. We haven't been able to hang out as much due to the pandemic, so we wanted this project to feel as fun and natural as possible.

How does your city, London, inform your creativity and artistic vision and what can we observe of this in your photography?
London and, most importantly, its people inspire me on the daily. Living here constantly feels like a crash course of what the world has to offer in terms of art and culture. The friends I have here come from so many different parts of the world and have so much pride in who they are. I have the same pride in my heritage, and that takes up space in both my everyday life and my work.

What features of Suede Mayu resonated with your sense of style?
I love that the shoe is bold but comfy. That's the first thing on my mind when I get dressed in the morning.

The Puma Suede MAYU will be available to purchase from 22nd April.

Credits


Copenhagen
Photography Chris Calmer
Talent Chris Calmer, Chili Dia, May Simon


Berlin
Photography Agatha Powa
Talent Zoey Lee


Milan
Photography: Laurent Bentil
Talent: Perla Ventura


London
Photography: Olivia Lifungula
Talent: Jordan Clarke