California Observer

Pharrell Williams lands creative director role

Pharrell Williams

Image Source: Market Beat

Louis Vuitton said in a statement on Tuesday that Pharrell Williams, an American singer, producer, and designer, will take over from Virgil Abloh as the brand’s creative director.

His new job starts right away, and his first collection will be shown during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.

The news comes a year after Abloh’s death in November 2021, when he was 41 and had been sick for a long time.

The creative designer’s untimely death sent shock waves through the industry and beyond. But in 2018, Abloh made history by becoming the first Black person to be hired as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton. He was known for bringing a streetwear style to the high-end fashion world and attracting a younger crowd to the long-standing fashion business.

Williams’ hiring ends months of conjecture over who would succeed Abloh.

While Pharrell Williams, a 13-time Grammy winner, is more renowned for his music career, the 49-year-old also has a strong fashion background. In 2003, he co-founded the Billionaire Boys Club, a streetwear label with fashion designer Nigo, and he has worked with various premium labels such as Tiffany & Co., Moncler, and Adidas.

Williams’s audacious personal style frequently draws headlines, from a large brown topper hat he donned to the Grammy Awards to his now-signature bejeweled Tiffany shades in 2014.

Williams, like Abloh, is a multidisciplinary artist: He stated at the start of 2022 that he was involved in a new hotel project in the Bahamas, planned to open the following year, and during the epidemic, he released a portable cutlery set to decrease single-use plastic consumption for outdoor dining.

It remains to be seen how Pharrell Williams will apply his skillset to his new post at Louis Vuitton, but a flurry of industry reactions to the news on social media suggests he’ll have a packed audience at his debut show this summer.

Pharrell Williams threads the Needle

At the Grammys earlier this month, Pharrell Williams stunned in an Ernest W. Baker quilted red leather tracksuit under a faux fur jacket, sharp black boots, and Tiffany diamond-rimmed teardrop-shaped glasses.

It was stiff and a touch sleazy, quick and yet unhurried. More importantly, it felt like a deeply ingrained and restrained homage to early hip-hop fashion, when louche 1970s sensuality gave way to ’80s concrete realism. Pharrell Williams, one of the defining music producers of the 2000s and one of the genre’s persistent style developers, delivered discreetly coded messages about how he inherited and absorbed the élan of those who came before him on the occasion of hip-50th hop’s anniversary.

And his appointment as the creative director for men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, announced last week, may have been a quietly coded message about how he would both guide the company moving forward and how Mr. Williams, the first hip-hop performer to lead a major fashion house, might take over from Virgil Abloh, who held the job until his death in 2021, and whose framework has remained central to subsequent collections.

Pharrell Williams has carved out provocative fashion terrain vital to his métier more than any other hip-hop celebrity outside of Ye (formerly Kanye West). He has experimented with his unique canvas for over two decades, ranging from art-skate brat to cartoon-bling hyperrealist to funhouse-mirror schoolboy to opulent hippie. He has also been a high fashion partner for nearly as long, working with Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Moncler, and Tiffany.

Pharrell Williams has been an influential and unique dandy whose sartorial explorations, particularly in recent years, have gone well beyond conventional designs. On the red carpet, he frequently wears a thin suit with shorts that hit just above the knee – sometimes successfully, as in his black tie outfit at the 2014 Oscars, and sometimes uncomfortably, as in his camouflage appearance at the 2019 Oscars. He donned a red leather track jacket with a large brown Vivienne Westwood derby to the 2014 Grammys, which spawned 1,000 memes. It was a visual distortion from someone normally tight-lipped and a pop culture Rorschach test for tolerance of male eccentricity.

In this, he represents a philosophical break from Mr. Abloh, who upstreamed common hip-hop style elements — debossed leather jackets, baggy pants, basketball sneakers — into the Louis Vuitton studio. Instead, Mr. Abloh tackled clothes creation with youthful aesthetic zeal, poking, tearing, and painting until a new version of an old object felt like it had always been that way.

Mr. Abloh has inspired imitators in terms of literal design and approach. Even if the designer did not come from the hip-hop scene, the codes of the last several years of men’s luxury have been hip-hop-generated. But this is the only designer or house that has matched Abloh’s vibrant inventiveness and exuberant provocation.

Pharrell Williams seemed unlikely to try, despite a similar tendency for remixing and enhancing hip-hop standards. For example, in 2010, he created a glossy black down vest cut in the style of a bulletproof vest out of yarn obtained from recycled plastic bottles for Moncler. This motivation is most visible in a series of jewelry pieces he created with Jacob Arabo, a long-time hip-hop jewelry icon.

Read Also: What happened at the New York Fashion Week?

Several of these pieces were sold at Mr. Williams’ recent auction of his jewelry on Joopiter, his auction platform, including a diamond-covered Rubik’s Cube key chain; yellow gold skateboard pendants covered in white, pink, and yellow diamonds; a gold grill embellished with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies; and the pièce de résistance, the 2005 N.E.R.D. chain with pastel diamond-covered links and the three members.

Opinions expressed by California Observer contributors are their own.


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