Pharrell Williams’ first offering as Louis Vuitton’s new menswear creative director debuted in June during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris. This highly anticipated collection showcased nearly 70 looks, a solid collection that reflected Williams’ distinctive style over the years, while the exhibition underscored LVMH’s dependence on Black culture. Unlike most designers, Pharrell’s approach is focused on the consumer, whom he also happens to embody himself. He told The New York Times that he saw himself as a client rather than solely a creative director. Following in the footsteps of the late Virgil Abloh, Williams’ inaugural runway show featured an array of celebrity guests sitting in the front row, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Tyler, the Creator, Rihanna, Zendaya, Jaden Smith, and others.
Williams’ appointment as director is a turning point in luxury fashion. It is the first time a musician has been given such a grand platform. However, Pharrell has earned his place at the LVMH table. His extensive record of fashion prototypes has established him as an industry Icon. With 13 Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, and an office with a window that overlooks the small plaza on the north side of the Pont Neuf, Pharrell is still going strong! Anna Wintour has previously stated that she dislikes the term “journey” being used in the context of fashion; however, Pharrell’s career appears to have been a long journey to get to his current seat at the table.
As a teenage prodigy and multi-instrumentalist in Virginia Beach back in the early ’90s, through multiple hits that earned him Billboard’s Producer of the Decade in 2010, to his current status as a multi-media superstar, and now as Louis Vuitton’s new creative director, Williams has never stopped creating. His career spans the 1990s, and his impact on streetwear aesthetics has inspired a retail genre worth billions of dollars.
Williams paired with Japanese fashion icon Nigo in the early 2000s to found the pioneering streetwear label Billionaire Boys Club. The pair also started a skateboarding-inspired shoe brand, Ice Cream. Early Pharell creations were opulent and logo-heavy. They might be identified by their full-zip hoodies with neon-colored dollar sign prints and jewel-tone sneakers. Cool teenagers and twenty-somethings who were on the lookout for every product drop were his target market.
Pharell’s Previous LV Collaborations
Pharrell worked with Marc Jacobs (Louis Vuitton’s creative director at the time) on a number of jewelry creations. The millionaire sunglasses with their blocky aviator-style frames are one of them.
The Gender-neutral Fashion Pioneer
Pharrell was engaged in gender-neutral dressing, or cross-dressing, around 2010. He strutted the runway during the Chanel women’s fashion show while wearing a “ladies-who-lunch” tweed jacket and pearl necklaces. He was the most notable man sporting women’s clothing at this moment. Crossing gender barriers before it was fashionable to do so.
The Trend Setter
Since about 2014, Pharrell has served as a catalyst for a number of shifts. He revived the Vivian Westwood mountain hat by performing while sporting it at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Additionally, he frequently advocated the calf-baring short-suit appearance on the red carpet. He has been seen wearing diamond-encrusted Tiffany & Co. sunglasses lately, which have almost become his signature accessory. Pharrell wore these sunglasses on the red carpet of the Grammy Awards in February as well as during recent fashion week. He can also be seen wearing these at his recent LV show.
Mr. Williams has also consistently advocated for up-and-coming designers. He has given a lot of assistance to Cynthia Lu, his former assistant who now manages the Lael Cactus Plant Flea Market. Pharell occasionally wore her hoodies and even mentioned her when he earned his Fashion Icon Award in 2015.
Pharrell’s First Collection as LV Menswear Creative Director
Pharrell joined Louis Vuitton at the age of 49 and is now the Menswear creative director. This role was previously held by the late Virgil Abloh, who died in 2021. The two had a close, long-standing friendship and admiration for one another. Williams’s debut collection at Louis Vuitton, “LV-overs,” is a nod to the “Virginia is for lovers” state slogan. The collection’s leading expression was “Damoflage,” a new print that fuses the brand’s heritage Damier pattern with camouflage. As such, the new pattern resembled an almost 8-bit graphic style that enveloped everything from tailored garments to street-ready pieces.
Standout pieces include a crisp white Chanel-esque cropped knit jacket in Damier with pearl detailing. A relaxed tracksuit with pearl finishes and a gray/black modern houndstooth coordinating set. Alongside William’s selection of tailored and streetwear ensembles, the collection’s accessories are a must-have. Specifically, bags that include the luxury house’s leather CLEARED! The fast silhouette is in vibrant colors, with revised Damier designs and Louis Vuitton’s crown trunk in Monogram Copper.
Pharrell’s deep roots in fashion and music remain evident in his work. So it only made sense that the multi-hyphenate brought those roots into his new design journey.
When influential Black people are chosen to head commercials or creatively direct brands without any internal ripple effects, it has a performative air to it. There weren’t many Black or brown faces when Pharrell left the stage with the LV team who worked on the collection. But I do think Pharrell’s position here does indicate something significant. Louis Vuitton reached $10 billion in sales in 2018 after 164 years of effort. In four years, the company increased the amount, helping its formidable parent company, LVMH, achieve the highest stock market valuation in Europe.
What’s your take on Pharrell being LV’s Creative Director?