Louis Vuitton, the mega luxury brand, has appointed multi-hyphenate musician and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams as its next artistic director of menswear. The appointment is immediate, and his debut collection will be in June 2023, during Paris men’s fashion week.
Williams’ new role at Louis Vuitton comes after months of speculation about who will succeed the late Virgil Abloh. Names that have been rumoured to take over the position include Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner, Samuel Ross and KidSuper founder Colm Dillane, who was recently the guest designer for the brand’s Fall/Winter 2023 menswear collection.
According to the press release, “The way which [Pharrell Williams] breaks boundaries across the various worlds he explores aligns with Louis Vuitton’s status as a Cultural Maison, reinforcing its values of innovation, pioneer spirit and entrepreneurship.” This is Louis Vuitton’s first significant change under the leadership of Pietro Beccari, its new chairman and CEO. Still, the decision to pick Williams could already be in the works even before Beccari succeeded the previous CEO, Michael Burke.
Following Abloh, Williams is the second African-American to assume the top creative role at Louis Vuitton. But his ties to the brand stretched even further back to 2004 when he collaborated with Marc Jacobs to design its eyewear. Four years later in 2008, Williams created a jewellery collection with the brand. He has since partnered with other fashion and luxury brands, including Chanel, Moncler and Adidas. Furthermore, he is the co-founder of streetwear labels Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, a role he shares with Nigo, the current creative director at Kenzo.
The recruitment of Williams at Louis Vuitton reflects the brand’s ongoing drive to infuse and strengthen its focus on streetwear following a hugely successful collaboration with Supreme in 2017. When Abloh was at the helm, he expanded Louis Vuitton’s customer base to include a new demographic and diversified the brand into areas such as gaming and sports. The brand now brings in a revenue of US$21.4 billion according to the latest financial results statements released by LVMH, Louis Vuitton’s parent company. It would want to continue this trajectory and onboarding Williams is one way to do so.
Outside of fashion, Williams is an award-winning music producer and artist whose accolades include 13 Grammy Awards and several nominations at the Oscars. He has 14.3 million Instagram followers to boot, bringing with him a community that could further value-add to the brand.
As Louis Vuitton embarks on becoming a Cultural Maison, appointing Williams will help to push the brand into this track. It has already begun through the ongoing partnership with the famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama from the art world and using influencers to plug itself into the current conversation. Case in point: The Louis Vuitton advertisement featuring eternal rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing chess on the checkerboard canvas of a Louis Vuitton Damier attaché case. In total, the campaign’s media impact value was US$13.5 million.
Williams’ strong ties to the music scene in the US makes him a valuable new member as Louis Vuitton makes further headway into the music industry and streetwear sector. Overall, this complements the goal of the brand as set forth by Beccari — a Cultural Maison and a forerunner in the realm of luxury fashion.
Sharing more about Williams’ new role, Beccari says “I am glad to welcome Pharrell [Williams] back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 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.”
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