Why Pharrell at Louis Vuitton makes sense
It’s been a little over a month since Louis Vuitton announced OG creative-pioneer Pharrell Williams as it’s new artistic director for menswear. That’s been enough time for us to all cool off from the initial shock & confusion we had when the news broke, since – in the people’s eyes – Pharrell was not a frontrunner for the top job at LV.
The hardcore fashion commentators, tweeters and armchair style experts all spoke up about their concern. “Why would they pick someone with no formal design training or experience?”, “Is Pharrell enough for a luxury brand like LV?”. Most felt disappointed and blindsided that he was picked over the rising stars of fashion rumored to have been considered. After all, there were whispers that Samuel Ross – founder of the architecture inspired A COLD-WALL brand and a very capable prodigy of Virgil Abloh’s – would have the baton passed on to him. Others had British Fashion Award recipient Grace Wales Bonner – and her namesake brand that explores race, masculinity and new takes on tailoring – as the favorite. Martine Rose was also said to be in the running, making waves in the fashion scene with her sport & British rave nostalgia inspired pieces loved by Rihanna. Most of us in fact were certain that it would be Martine…right?
Now however, it’s about time we come to terms with and try to make sense of what’s to come ahead with Pharrell at the wheel – starting this June. There’s more than a couple fair & justifiable reasons Louis Vuitton would go for someone like Pharrell. Without listing all his accolades (since Google is free), here’s a couple that stand out…
It’s Business Baby
LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) have been pioneers of innovation in fashion before, empowering the great dreamers back in the day. They put a fresh Alexander Mcqueen in charge of Givenchy, John Galliano at Dior, and of course our beloved Virgil at Louis Vuitton. However, let’s not forget that LVMH is a luxury machine in the business of profit and growth. With a globally solid stable filled with brands including the iconic three above plus Celine, Fendi, Tiffany & Co. and more; emotionless business decisions prevail over creative fantasies most times. Sales still matter most, which means influence matters. Pharrell was most definitely a safe bet for a house like Louis Vuitton to continue on this streetstyle-charged trajectory left by Virgil Abloh.
He is the Influencer’s Influencer
It’s hard to find anyone who navigates the spaces of both music and fashion that hasn’t been remotely influenced by the skill & star power of Pharrell Williams. From Frank Ocean to ASAP Rocky and Tyler the Creator; 49 year old Pharrell “Skateboy P” Williams’ creative DNA is still prevalent and obvious in this gen’s top ten artists. Tyler went as far as stating that Pharell’s individuality made him “feel safe in high school”. Williams is the influencer’s influencer, a fact to which most have gone on record and admitted. Since 2000, Pharrell’s eclectic luxury-skater and fountain of youth aesthetic has been imprinted in our cultural highlights. There’s no way the trucker hat look from the frontin’ video, his custom & colorfully gemmed Jacob the Jeweller ice (which Drake just bought for a couple million at auction for his recent Jumbotron vid), or his mink fur coats and vibrant crocodile Birkins are ever leaving our mental moodboards.
The only other record-producing (and record-breaking), hitmaking, design leader in this same otherworldly orbit as Pharrell, would be Kanye West.
With his boundary-pushing sense of style & love of art, mixed with a genius-level musical ear, Pharrell’s appeal transcends race; especially when you see the love nations like Japan and its streetwear community show him. His elegant & expensive taste is something we hadn’t seen this strong in our culture before. It appeals to all too – it is just as possible for women to see a Pharrell fit and want every item head to toe as it is for men. This bodes well for his LV position.
Design: From ice to ICE CREAM…he’s THE tastemaker
It’s not just Pharrell’s untouchable influence though. It’s his continual supply of good, tangible products too. He has a long list of successful fashion-related ventures that have shifted the trajectory of our tribe as a whole; inspiring generations of us young dreamers. He’s true to this, not new to this.
His game-changing streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club, founded 20 whole years ago in 2003, made way for brands like Vlone, Trapstar and Virgil’s Pyrex (later becoming Off-White in 2013). Whilst many artist-owned brands fall by the weyside, Billionaire Boys Club & its sub-line ICE CREAM are still credible brands to this day.
We also can’t overlook Williams’ work with Adidas, from his custom Superstars and Humanrace Sambas to his legendary multi-colored NMD’s emblazoned with positive messages, these drops have become a staple in every sneakerhead’s collection. Resale prices are astronomical; with the originals now going for $2,000 on average. Garnering a loyal fanbase outside of your music – willing to wait in line for your designs – is also talent.
A high fashion example you say? Pharrell has actually been designing with Louis Vuitton since 2004, with a monogram and royal crown style jewelry line alongside Camille Miceli. Williams used his chance and access to speak on the usually inaccessible hierarchies, aristocracy and secret societies. Not bad for his first time.
2017 saw Pharrell take it to another level by achieving a collaboration with Chanel under the late Karl Lagerfeld’s leadership. If you’d want to learn under anyone in fashion, Karl would be the perfect pick. Simultaneously, Pharell became Chanel’s second black male runway model – right after Alton Mason. The timeless capsule collection saw Pharrell’s love of color and shiny embellishments, the unforgettable “double c” (or cc) logo and unisex pearl jewelry inspired by the women’s collections. Ironically, that same pearl style is now a mens must-have in 2023.
Then there’s Pharrell’s ongoing collabs with luxury watchmakers Richard Mille, outerwear G.O.A.T’s Moncler, and Tiffany & co. Pharell also co-owns G-Star Raw Denim and Humanmade.
Culture and fashion’s strongest link
Fun fact: Every designer – and collaborator – at Louis Vuitton in the past 20 years, was first a close friend of Pharrell’s. From artist Takashi Murakami to Marc Jacobs in the early 2000’s, it wouldn’t be farfetched to argue that Williams’ consistent co-signs had a very large role to play in Louis Vuitton’s success.
It’s clear that Pharrell – much like fashion kingpin Anna Wintour – knows the who’s who of designers, and even now will pick his LV collaborators and team impeccably well. Having that God-given eye and prophet-like insight is more than enough for Pharrell to succeed.
Take Pharrell’s good friend Nigo. Japanese design hero, A Bathing Ape founder and now Kenzo creative director Nigo collaborated on a few capsule collections at LV with Virgil, heavily inspired by 60’s East Asian tailoring and recent animation. Some of these designs are the highlight – and bestsellers – of Virgil’s time at Louis Vuitton. Way before this though, Nigo was the co-founder of Billionaire Boys Club in 2003. Nigo first reached out to Pharrell after asking Jacob the Jeweller to design his personal jewelry “just like Williams’”. It’s full circle since both men were pictured together only a few weeks ago in Paris, finally as brand mates under LVMH.
There’s of course the late, great Virgil Abloh, now Pharrell’s predecessor. Virgil credited much of his whimsical, dream-like design approach to Mr. Williams, who eventually became a mentor and brother. Unknown to many, Virgil’s legendary 2018 LV 1.1 millionaire sunglasses, were first inspired by Pharrell’s LV Millionaires, designed with Nigo in 2004 and first worn by the likes of Kanye & Virgil.
We’re quick to forget that Virgil – who also had no formal design training – “willed” and “believed” himself into the position at Louis Vuitton, just as Pharrell has now “determined” his own way there. Those quotes are each their own words, spoken 5 years apart. Since V was always inspired by Pharell, surely it makes sense for P to finally get his turn?
For all the doubters: not too much on Pharrell Williams. With the magnitude of his stardom, and both his musical and fashion hits, it’s easy to forget the groundwork he laid to reach a post like this. Regardless of our say, his track record and worth have proven he is capable of creative directing at a fashion house. And if not convincing in words or on paper, his self-belief – like Virgil’s – has been enough to make it happen.