Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and now menswear creative director.
Analysts and prognosticators have reacted unsurprisingly to the appointment of Pharrell Williams as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. If anyone could fill the shoes of multi-hyphenate late designer Virgil Abloh, it would be Williams.
“Pharrell is one of the most recognizable multi-hyphenates,” said Sarah Unger, senior vice president of Cultural Insights for Civic Entertainment Group. “He clarified our understanding of the industry-agnostic cultural appeal a musician can have. LV is a multi-hyphenate brand—beyond the usual fashion house. Pharrell has many platforms to play on.”
Williams is a logical step in following Abloh, another analyst says, and is no stranger to fashion, having created streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Shoes and previously partnered with brands such as Adidas and Moncler.
Hemant Kalbagh, Managing Director, Consumer Retail Group, Alvarez & Marsal said: “There is no doubt that Farrell will make his mark. But I don’t expect a fundamental change in direction. That said, Pharrell helps LV connect with the next generation of LV customers.
Williams will show his first collection for the French luxury house at Paris Men’s Fashion Week in June. The show will celebrate Abloh’s iconic brand five years after it was first assembled, and the audience will include Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, ASAP Rocky, Takashi Murakami, Travis Scott and more. More than 2,000 guests attended the event at the Palais Royal. In total, the event featured 56 men’s looks including apparel, accessories and footwear.
What to expect in the future
Williams’ multifaceted career experience could provide a clue as to what customers can expect from his tenure at Louis Vuitton, said Edited market analyst Kayla Marcy.
“His influence on the street, through personal style and the Billionaire Boys Club and ice cream labels, reinforces the role of tradition in luxury, which is the legacy of Virgil Abloh,” Marcy says.
Williams’ partnership with Adidas shows the musician-turned-designer’s ability to tap into heritage products and reinvent them for a new generation, the samba, which could be translated into designer projects Vuitton’s latest collections.
“Showing old styles and house codes,” Marcy says. His history with the sports magnate fueled speculation of a future Louis Vuitton x Adidas collaboration.
Williams’ strong ties to the music community will attract new consumers, Calbag reckons.
“However, the basic demographic—young, urban, social media savvy—can’t change as a picture,” Kalbag says. Although his global presence and household name recognition far exceeds that of Virgil, it is unclear whether Pharrell will have the same global draw as Virgil.
Other creative collaborations
Given the continued consumer interest in travel and crossover between travel and fashion, Unger is excited to see how it unfolds with Vuitton’s new artistic director.
“I’m especially excited to see Pharrell put his stamp on the LV Hotel coming to Paris,” Unger said.
In addition, Williams’ gender-neutral skincare line Humanrace could provide interesting avenues for Vuitton, Unger says, especially as the skincare sector continues to grow in popularity.
Williams has previously talked about finding inspiration from sources such as billboards and construction, Unger said.
So “maybe we’ll see him explore the culture of his Virginia Beach roots, or maybe he’ll draw from the architecture,” says Unger. In the year In 2013, Farrell was in talks with late architect Zaha Hadid about designing prefab homes. I would love to see those design pictures on them.
Whatever creative path Williams takes at Vuitton, the unveiling of his debut fashion collection in June will be highly anticipated and closely watched, Marcy said, adding that Williams is under pressure to follow in the footsteps of Abloh and other former designers.
“The events of 2022 have made fashion networks approach popular designers with a high degree of skepticism, wanting quality designs and wearable products to be emphasized instead of relying solely on advertising and creating viral moments,” says Marcy.
The menswear designer’s role at Vuitton became vacant after Abloh died of cancer in November 2021, becoming the first African-American to take on the role of men’s artistic director at Vuitton.
Fashion was a vehicle for Abloh, a trained engineer, architect, DJ and creator of the Off-White luxury label that connects the past and the future.
“Important to my show’s concept is the global perspective on diversity that is linked to the travel DNA. [Louis Vuitton] The brand, Abloh, posted on Instagram about Vuitton’s debut collection in Paris, writing in the caption, “You can do it too…”
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