Virgil Abloh's passing in November 2021 has led Louis Vuitton to point to musical artist and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams as their new menswear creative director. "I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 2008 for Louis Vuitton," the company's chief executive, Pietro Beccari, said in a statement on Tuesday. He believes that Williams' creative vision beyond fashion will lead the house towards a new and exciting chapter.
Previously, Louis Vuitton has managed to tap into the younger generation of fashion enthusiasts thanks to the late Abloh's keen understanding of the zeitgeist. While not without its fair share of criticism, the house expanded its customer base masterfully by incorporating stylistic cues from youth subcultures. Thus, the decision of appointing Pharrell, an intergenerational creative whose body of work goes far beyond any single field, can be understood as a strategic move from the label to maintain its grasp of the similar niche.
After Abloh's passing, the fashion house tried its best to strive despite his absence by having their Fall/Winter 2023 collection carried by a guest designer, Colm Dillane, a New York City-based designer who's best known for his label KidSuper. His approach itself for his own label is characterized by its artistic and youthful streetwear-leaning pieces that extended far past T-shirts into areas of cut and sew like suiting and outerwear. Most of Dillane's pieces act as a canvas for his artwork. Dillane himself had no formal design training, which he told Complex in a 2021 interview—he initially learned how to design clothes through YouTube videos and Google.
The guest designer's touch for Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2023 collection was all about flowing suits and bold patterns, following Abloh's core elements over the years at Louis Vuitton. The oversized aesthetic was well refined with splashes of colors and short passages of writings in some pieces.
On the subject of colors, the newly appointed creative director, Pharrell Williams' sense of style seems to be largely characterized by his bold use of them. Even during the early days of his career, his self-expression has largely been associated with colors, through pieces like slimmer jeans, fitted skate tees, and mesh trucker hats.
Pharrell's fashion sense did not stop evolving by then. Decades before it was fashionable to do so in the hip-hop industry, he pushed the envelope on masculinity and challenged perceptions on what everyone should perceive when it comes to fashion to express oneself. His signature special-ordered Hermès Birkin bag in inky purple crocodile in 2007 is an instantly distinctive staple of his, which he continued wearing everywhere over the years. He also regularly wore clothes and jewelry from Chanel and Céline, regardless of the labels "menswear" or "womenswear". Pharrell Williams has long been a catalyst in the fashion industry on several levels, as a style icon, collaborator, or even as a creative director of his own label.
Part of what impacted his trajectory is Williams' fateful meeting with Kenzo's current artistic director and founder of A Bathing Ape, Nigo. Their joint brand, Billionaire Boys Club and ICECREAM, combined the two creatives' sensibilities and star power for a generation of kids. Another notable example in Pharrell's oeuvre in fashion is his long-standing collaboration with adidas—one of them being their Superstar sneakers in "Supercolor" pack, with a total of 50 colors in rainbow shades.
He was also the first celebrity to collaborate on a capsule collection with Chanel, under a line called Chanel Pharrell. The collection had his name engraved on their pieces, including color-blocked loafers, white sneakers with doodles and patches all over them, and many more. His connection with Chanel goes way back that it's difficult to imagine that Pharrell would be associated with anything less-colorful.
With a long list of experiences in his résumé, Williams is no doubt a man full of ideas. But perhaps, the real test for him is whether he can continue to express his authenticity by combining his roots with the fashion house as a creative director. He surely excels at creating and establishing his persona in the fashion industry, yet somehow, being a creative director at a label the scale of Louis Vuitton is prodigiously demanding. Not just simply serving a series of high moments, he's also given the trust and responsibility to create a fresh, consistent, and distinctive output.
The question of how Louis Vuitton's menswear would be in the hands of Pharrell Williams will be answered through his first collection release in June this year. Now, we wait.(DIP/alm)