Last year, PUMA—athleticwear giant and collaboration genius—launched its new design initiative, Select, where different creatives and designers play the role of "co-creative directors" on special-edition shoes and capsule collections. Since its inception, the brand has collaborated with a number of names, from artist Bradley Theodore to South Korean streetwear label Ader Error. Next up on the roster? Music industry powerhouse Lola Plaku.
Plaku, who currently serves as the CEO of her own Lola Media Group, began her career as a music journalist in Canada's hip-hop scene, later moving on to essentially dominating the music industry—something more typically done by men. Plaku's worked in various roles, from marketing at record labels to concert production, and the artists she's worked with speak to her skills: French Montana, The Weeknd, Kehlani, A$AP Rocky—just to name a few.
Despite how busy a day in the life of Plaku might be, she's made an effort to use her platform to empower girls, especially those interested in music. She recently founded Girl Connected, a mentorship program that pairs aspiring young women looking to break into the industry with Plaku's colleagues to show them the ins and outs of the music biz. This includes everything from A&R and artist management to public relations and creative direction—making for a hands-on experience that's not easy to gain access to, even through a typical internship program.
And for her capsule, Plaku co-created her shoes with empowerment in mind. First up is the Nova GRL PWR, a chunky '90s-inspired sneaker that fuses mesh and leather overlays with vibrant color blocking, which comes in "Black—Surf The Web," a blend of black with bold blue, pink, and yellow accents, and "Peach Bud—Pearl Blush," a color blocked concoction of millennial pink and muted peach. In March, a second sneaker, also available in two colorways, is expected to drop.
However, for Plaku, the campaign narrative of her capsule came before the design of the shoe—which was heavily influenced by the challenges she faced in her own rise to the top. "When [PUMA] and I started the conversation about a year ago, I had already been thinking about my role as a woman in the industry and the challenges of being a female business owner and creative," she says. "Working alongside male artists in a male-dominated field, there were times when it was difficult to get my voice heard. It was even harder to ask for what I deserved. I see so many women who kick ass every single day, but their efforts are overlooked. Women are strong, smart, resourceful, organized, and nearly every powerful individual I know has a team of amazing women that run shit."
With that said, Plaku selected and directed a group of female creatives that are killing it in their respective fields—Bambii Azan, Enisa, Lauren Ledford, and Marz Lovejoy—to represent the GRL PWR woman, described a someone who "embraces her feminine side while valuing the comfort and street style swag that complements her active lifestyle."
Much like Plaku works to empower young women looking to break into typically male-dominated industries, she hopes her designs do the same:
For many of us, fashion can be a struggle—does a business suit convey empowerment, or does a pair of sneakers convey empowerment? In my opinion, personal comfort—whatever that may be for you—conveys power. It says, "This is me at my best." I've been in business meetings dressed in more formal attire, and I've been in business meetings in ripped jeans and sneakers. I feel confident in both, and that confidence can be attributed to how my sense of style makes me feel about myself. Fashion can absolutely be used as a means of empowerment, as long as it's true to who you are and how a fit makes you feel.
You can shop the Nova GRL PWR starting today at Puma.com. Take a look at the campaign, below.