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June 15, 2024
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LV appoints Pharrell Williams as creative director

The French luxury fashion firm announced on Tuesday that American musician, producer, and designer Pharrell Williams would follow Virgil Abloh as creative director of Louis Vuitton.

His appointment is effective immediately, and his first collection will be revealed during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June.

The news comes a year after Abloh died in November 2021, at the age of 41, after a long battle with sickness.

The unexpected demise of the innovative designer shocked the business and beyond. However, Abloh made history in 2018 when he was appointed Louis Vuitton’s first Black artistic director. With designs that incorporated a streetwear aesthetic into the luxury sphere, he was widely credited for introducing a younger population to the historic fashion industry.

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

Pharrell Williams, a 13-time Grammy winner, is best known for his musical career, but the 49-year-old also has a strong fashion history. He co-founded the Billionaire Boys Club, a streetwear label, with fashion designer Nigo in 2003, and he has collaborated with premium brands such as Tiffany & Co., Moncler, and Adidas.

Williams’ daring personal style has repeatedly made news, from a giant brown topper hat he wore to the Grammy Awards in 2009 to his now-signature bejeweled Tiffany shades in 2014.

Pharrell Williams, like Virgil Abloh, is a multifaceted artist: he announced in early 2022 that he was working on a new hotel project in the Bahamas that would open the following year, and he developed a portable cutlery set to reduce single-use plastic use for outdoor dining during the epidemic.

It’s still being determined how Williams will apply his skillset to his new position at Louis Vuitton, but a flurry of industry reactions to the news on social media suggests he’ll have a packed house for his debut show this summer.

Pharrell Williams threads the Needle

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

It was stiff and a little sleazy, rapid but not rushed. More crucially, it felt like a deeply rooted and restrained homage to early hip-hop fashion, when louche 1970s sensuality gave way to concrete realism in the 1980s. On the occasion of hip hop’s 50th anniversary, Pharrell Williams, one of the defining music producers of the 2000s and one of the genre’s persistent style creators, gave subtly veiled messages on how he inherited and absorbed the élan of those who came before him.

And his appointment last week as the creative director for men’s wear at Louis Vuitton may have been a quietly coded message about how he would both guide the company moving forward and how Pharrell 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, more than any other hip-hop celebrity outside of Ye, has carved out provocative fashion terrain important to his métier (formerly Kanye West). For over two decades, he has experimented with his particular canvas, ranging from art-skate brat to cartoon-bling hyperrealist to funhouse-mirror schoolboy to luxurious hippie. He’s also been a high fashion collaborator for nearly as long, collaborating with Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Moncler, and Tiffany.

Pharrell Williams has been a distinctive and important dandy whose sartorial explorations, particularly in recent years, have gone well beyond traditional designs. On the red carpet, he frequently wears a slim suit with shorts that hit just above the knee – sometimes successfully, as in his black tie look at the 2014 Oscars, and sometimes inconveniently, as in his camouflage look at the 2019 Oscars. For the 2014 Grammys, he wore a red leather track jacket with a huge brown Vivienne Westwood derby, which inspired 1,000 jokes. It was a visual distortion from someone who was generally tight-lipped and a pop culture Rorschach test for male eccentricity tolerance.

He symbolizes a philosophical departure from Mr. Abloh, who brought popular hip-hop-style components into the Louis Vuitton studio, such as debossed leather jackets, baggy pants, and basketball sneakers. Mr. Abloh, on the other hand, approached clothing design with youthful artistic fervor, poking, shredding, and painting until a new version of an old product felt like it had always been that way.

In terms of literal design and approach, Mr. Abloh has inspired imitators. Even if the designer did not emerge from the hip-hop culture, the codes of men’s luxury in recent years have been hip-hop-generated. But no other designer or house has come close to matching Abloh’s brilliant ingenuity and flamboyant provocation.

Despite a comparable proclivity for remixing and upgrading hip-hop standards, Mr. Williams seems hesitant to try. For Moncler, he designed a glossy black down vest cut in the shape of a bulletproof vest out of yarn derived from recycled plastic bottles in 2010. This drive is most obvious in a series of jewelry pieces he collaborated on with Jacob Arabo, a hip-hop jewelry star.

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Several of these pieces, 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, were sold at Mr. Williams’ recent jewelry auction on Joopiter, his auction platform.

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