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The Path Pharrell Took En Route to Louis Vuitton Men’s Creative Director

Pharrell Louis Vuitton
via Louis Vuitton

This article was initially published on February 15, 2023.

In 2023, Pharrell Williams was as the new Louis Vuitton Men’s Creative Director. The gargantuan fashion house had left this position vacant in the wake of Virgil Abloh’s tragic passing in November 2021, and many names were rumoured to fill the role. However, Williams’s history in the fashion game provides enough provenance to make him a suitable suitor for the position despite having no formal background. Let’s recap how he got here.

The Bling Era

Williams was already on the music map since the early 1990s with ‘Rumpshaker’ and dozens of tracks produced in partnership with Chad Hugo as part of The Neptunes, but let’s fast forward to 2003. Producers-turned-rappers were not a new phenomenon, but Williams’ cachet had plenty tuned into MTV to catch the music video for his debut solo single, ‘Frontin’’.

It was with this MV that he soft-launched Billionaire Boys Club, his new streetwear label in collaboration with Nigo of BAPE – who makes a cameo with other stylish individuals like Jay-Z, Pusha T and Lenny Kravitz, among others. Rappers-turned-fashionistas were not anomalies either; however, BBC’s trucker hats, logo t-shirts and distressed baggy jeans were perhaps more accessible to the masses than the hard-boiled East Coast stylings of Wu Wear from just a few years prior.

Arguably one of the most defining pieces of Williams’ 2010s fashion era was the big Vivienne Westwood hat. Paired with an adidas track top or leather jacket plus fairly skinny jeans resulted in a look that was a far cry from tilted fitteds and screen-printed crotch sandblast denim from just a few years prior. It was a necessary evolution and softening of an artist now better known for the saccharine ‘Happy’ than the table-pounding ‘Grindin’’.

This prolific era also resulted in Williams working with G-Star RAW jeans in 2014 to use recycled ocean plastic as yarn. The partnership solidified further in 2016 when he became a co-owner of the company and continued releasing seasonal collections.

Williams remained in touch with haute brands during this time, too, as the first male handbag ambassador for Chanel in 2015. It was with the French label and then-creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s blessing that Williams released a super rare collaborative Hu NMD in 2017, then he released his own collaborative collection in 2019 that was filled with colourful loafers and loud sunglasses. As with his previous flirtations with LV, Williams was ramping up his luxury fashion presence.

The Debut Show in Paris

Pharrell debuted his highly anticipated Louis Vuitton collection at Paris Fashion Week in 2023. The creative polymath presented a spectacular show on the historic Pont Neuf bridge – Paris’s oldest bridge. The first act in Pharrell’s new role as the creative director of menswear, the show revolved conceptually around the sun.

‘The Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2024 Men’s Collection orbits the sun as a focal point for opportunity, responsibility and enhancement,’ Louis Vuitton detailed in their show notes. ‘In his first proposal for the Maison, Men’s Creative Director Pharrell Williams looks to the sun as a universal source of life: a radiance that energises, heals and unifies humans across cultures and creeds.’

Pharrell’s collection featured plenty of unique tailoring, from short suits to LV-branded ties. One of the biggest themes across the collection was the ‘Damouflage’, which took LV’s usual Damier print and turned it into a glitch camo. In terms of footwear, there was a lot going on. The main highlights were the boots that extended to almost-knee length. Pharrell also showed plenty of men's Mary Jane-style shoes and new sneaker silhouettes, some reminiscent of bowling shoes while others looked like chunky Y2K skate footwear. Sparkly moon boots were a striking sight, and so were the fluffy slippers.

Of course, the guest lineup was absolutely stacked, with Beyoncé, Jay Z, Tyler, The Creator, Salehe Bembury and LeBron James all in attendance. Pharrell also took a moment to honour fashion trailblazer and former Louis Vuitton creative director Virgil Abloh. ‘This moment is dedicated to the giant before me,’ he said in a statement. ‘To our brother in spirit.’

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