Multi-hyphenate musician and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams will become Louis Vuitton’s next artistic director of menswear, the brand confirmed on Tuesday, following a Wall Street Journal report. His first collection for Louis Vuitton will be revealed this June during men’s fashion week in Paris.
“I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and in 2008 for Louis Vuitton, as our new men’s creative director. His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter,” Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO Pietro Beccari said in a statement. It marks his first big decision since he took the helm of the world’s largest luxury brand on 1 February, succeeding outgoing chairman and CEO Michael Burke.
The appointment fills one of fashion’s most high-profile vacancies, open since Virgil Abloh died in November 2021. A flurry of names have been touted for the position, including designers Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner, Samuel Ross and Jonathan Anderson. KidSuper founder Colm Dillane is also thought to be in the running, having participated in the creation of Louis Vuitton’s Autumn/Winter 2023 collection.
“We are going even further in the model of the artistic director focused on image as opposed to the couturier. Pharrell Williams knows how to capture coolness,” says Benjamin Simmenauer, professor at Institut Français de la Mode in Paris.
Williams is no stranger to fashion. He is co-owner of streetwear brand Human Made with Kenzo creative director Nigo; founder of the Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream streetwear brands; co-owner of G-Star Raw Denim; and a regular collaborator with Tiffany. The entrepreneur ventured into beauty with gender-neutral skincare brand Humanrace in 2020. He is also a longtime friend of Chanel, having served as a muse to the late Karl Lagerfeld and attended the recent Métiers d’art show in Dakar.
Williams didn’t attend the Chanel couture show in January. In a statement on Tuesday, Chanel congratulated Williams on his appointment as men’s creative director for Louis Vuitton. “Pharrell Williams has been an ambassador for Chanel for nine years and remains a friend of the house, having worked together on many beautiful projects. We wish him the best in his new responsibilities,” the house said.
He also attended the Off-White show in February in Paris that paid homage to Abloh and attended the Balenciaga show at the New York Stock Exchange in May 2022. Williams recently performed at Brigitte Macron’s charity event ‘Le Gala des Pièces Jaunes’ in Paris, alongside Blackpink. French President Emmanuel Macron was in attendance, as well as Alexandre, Frédéric, Jean and Hélène Arnault.
Alexandre Arnault, 30, who heads up product and communications at Tiffany & Co., posted a photo of him with Williams on his Instagram with a caption: “I am so excited to witness this next chapter, and nothing makes me happier than to welcome you home to Louis Vuitton! Big bro. Oh… and yes, we have some Tiffany jewellery on the way.” His younger brother Jean Arnault, who is marketing and development director of Louis Vuitton Watches, posted, “Welcome home, Pharrell”.
Williams brings the firepower of his community. He counts 14.3 million Instagram followers (his feed has only one post announcing his nomination). By comparison, Donatella Versace has 9.8 million, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing has 9 million, and Jacquemus has 5.3 million.
“Louis Vuitton continues to reinvent the role of a creative director by selecting a maverick,” says Jean Vigneron, consultant at executive search company Egon Zehnder. “This choice is in line with the past creative directors who bought a fresh perspective on fashion. It shows more than ever that Louis Vuitton has become a global luxury lifestyle brand.”
Simon Longland, director of fashion buying at Harrods, says: “I’m intrigued to see Pharrell’s unique sense of personal style and clean-cut maximalism come to life and push the boundaries of the house’s iconic DNA, with the resources, skills, and abilities from the incredibly talented team in the Vuitton atelier, who we have seen deliver successful collections over the past three seasons. This is a fascinating move from Louis Vuitton, who never cease to demonstrate their ability to deliver the unexpected.”
Louis Vuitton surpassed €20 billion in annual sales in 2022. Beccari runs the megabrand as it navigates the slowdown in the US and the reopening of China. It remains to see if Williams’s designs will resonate with the coveted Chinese Gen Z clientele.
Williams is also among those slated to unveil new design concepts at Moncler’s latest Genius activation during London Fashion Week on 20 February. A representative for Williams could not be reached for comment for this story.
Originally published in Voguebusiness.com