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

Pharrell Louis Vuitton

Pharrell Williams was announced overnight 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’ history in the fashion game perhaps provides enough provenance to make him a suitable suitor for the position, despite having no formal background. Time will tell how he takes up the mantle – his first test will be unveiling his debut collection at Paris Fashion Week in June – but for now, 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.

via Joopiter
,PlayStation Portable PSP Gold
via Joopiter
Pharrell BAPE Road Sta

Not long after ‘Frontin’’, Williams inked a deal with Reebok in 2004 to produce ICECREAM sneakers, which, in retrospect, were effectively chunky Stan Smiths and other cupsole models but given skatey names like ‘Boardflip’. Upon reviving the ‘Skateboard P’ nickname he’d been given in youth, Williams also assembled the eponymous ICECREAM skate team with established names, including Terry Kennedy, Jimmy Gorecki and Cato, Pharrell’s brother, to make matters legit.

Concurrently, Williams was one of the major proponents of the ‘bling era’, an ostentatious style period in street and hip-hop fashion that prioritised OTT expressions of material wealth. His peers Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and others crossed Jacob & Co chains, solid gold BlackBerrys and iced-out G-Shocks with Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks and Goyard trunks, sprinkled among Japanese streetwear in the ultimate high-low pairing. Williams also rolled around in a black Ferrari Enzo.

It’s important to note that luxury and street fashion, especially in the hip-hop field, had been crossing over since the days of Dapper Dan. However, the ‘look at me’ mentality of the 2000s granted new legitimacy and access to high-end goods for the nouveau riche. This proved a boon for Marc Jacobs, who served as Louis Vuitton’s creative director from 1997 to 2013, seizing opportunities to invigorate the fashion house to appeal to younger, cashed-up customers.

Collaborations with ‘outsiders’ like Japanese artist Takashi Murakami spawned new followers and street-ready pieces. Williams was tapped to help design the ‘Millionaires’ sunglasses in 2004, a product that still exists by name in LV’s offerings. As it happened almost 20 years later, this wouldn’t be his only brush with the brand, having also collaborated on some jewellery in 2008.

Pharrell Timberland Chanel
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Pharrell Bee Line Timberland
Pharrell G-Star RAW
via G-Star RAW
Pharrell adidas Chanel Hu NMD


As the 2010s rolled around, Williams’ personal style adjusted to somewhat less gaudy but still distinctive looks – remember the moustache? His streetwear sensei Nigo left BAPE in 2011 to focus on HUMAN MADE, a considerably more mature label. Williams seemed to take a similar approach, not only appearing in the brand’s lookbooks but also wearing more traditional pieces. Black Timberland boots with red laces and handwritten Chanel logos became a red-carpet staple on-foot, leading to an official BBC x Timberland collection called Bee Line in 2012 that runs to this day. The ‘Red October’ look was all the rage circa 2014, and Williams delivered his own spin via the all-red Bee Line boot that year.

At the same time as the Timberland deal, Williams signed a long-term partnership with adidas. Early highlights included the 50-pair ‘Supercolor’ Superstar pack and similarly massive Stan Smith collections. A Swarovski-encrusted personal pair seemed to indicate he still had bling on his mind. The adidas partnership would evolve to include new models like the Hu NMD and Sičhona, conceived via his Humanrace sub-label, plus on-the-pulse reworks of trending designs like the Samba.

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.

Pharrell Cactus Plant Flea Market
via @pharrell
Louis Vuitton Trunk
via Joopiter


By the end of the 2010s decade, it seemed as Williams got older (though it still looks like he hasn’t aged a day since the 2000s), his style occupied a wider spectrum. Streetwear was still a mainstay with plenty of HUMAN MADE staples and collaborative Cactus Plant Flea Market – the brainchild of the enigmatic Cynthia Lu, who was a Williams associate since the BBC days – garments on show. But the other side of the wardrobe was stratospherically priced: Balenciaga pieces and Richard Mille watches became increasingly common sightings.

Simultaneously, his spiritual side emerged, resulting in some sort of epiphany and rejection of the aesthetic past that he helped pioneer. The Joopiter auctions served as something of a spring clean, moving some relics from the past to bring on a mental and spatial reset for the future ahead. Funnily enough, one of the flagship items was a massive Louis Vuitton trunk from the aforementioned Murakami collaboration, emblazoned with a BBC logo. As it turns out, Williams wasn’t about to leave LVMH behind.

In early 2022, Williams began rocking some uniquely shaped sunglasses with massive gemstones – old habits die hard, it seems. They turned out to be by Tiffany & Co., who were bought out by LVMH in 2021. Comparisons to antique Mughal pieces aside, these spectacles would prove something of a warmup before a much more significant appointment.

Virgil Abloh Nigo

At this point, it’s vital to refocus some attention on Nigo, one of Williams’ closest allies in the fashion industry. The Japanese don had his own brush with LVMH in 2020 via the LV2 collaboration, Virgil Abloh’s first during his time at Vuitton. Then, in 2021, he was named as artistic director of Kenzo – another LVMH entity. Nigo has also been a clear fan of the brand since the turn of the century, personally owning some Marc Jacobs-era Grails. It’d be remiss not to assume that Nigo had at least a bit of sway in bringing Pharrell on board at Louis Vuitton.

Now with the confirmation that Pharrell Williams is the new Louis Vuitton Men’s Creative Director, there will be some big shoes to fill. Abloh’s appointment marked another cultural shift for the brand, and the recent assistance by KidSuper maintains a high standard. Furthermore, with names like Wales Bonner and Martine Rose having been previously rumoured to fill the role – plus the dark horse and former ‘Louis Vuitton Don’ that is Ye – comparisons will be inevitable. Williams might be facing his biggest critical challenge of the past 20 years.

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