The many hats of Pharrell Williams: From Billionaire Boys Club to Louis Vuitton
The appointment of Pharrell Williams as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton closes one of the most talked-about chapters in recent fashion history. At last, it is officially known who will follow in Virgil Abloh's footsteps. Some critical voices may question the multi-talented creative's credentials - some might know him primarily for happy catchy tunes on the radio - but the fashion industry is definitely no new territory for Williams.
For more than two decades, Williams - as Virgil Abloh once did - has combined music, pop culture and fashion in his work. The 49-year-old not only has 13 Grammys to his name, but also a portfolio of brands - from fashion to cosmetics - and high-profile collaborations. Throughout the years, his paths have also repeatedly crossed with his current employer LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton.
Billionaire Boys Club
In 2003, Pharrell Williams and Japanese designer Nigo founded the streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club (BBC). The brand, which also includes the labels Ice Cream, Bee Line and Billionaire Girls Club, is firmly rooted in music, Japanese streetwear, pop culture and the skater scene and combines these with elements from space travel. One of the brand's most famous emblems - an astronaut wearing a helmet - has not only adorned BBC clothing since its inception, but also numerous collaborations. Over the past 20 years, the two streetwear gurus have collaborated with sportswear manufacturers Reebok and Adidas, the Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garçons, the animated series Pokémon and the New York Yankees baseball team, among others.
In honour of Williams' performance at the Zenith Arena in Paris in 2014, Colette, arguably the most famous concept store in the world at the time, also created a Billionaire Boys Club capsule. This was sold as part of "Pharrell Week", an event at the Parisian shop, alongside other collaborations by the artist, including specially created macarons by Parisian patisserie Ladurée.
The collaboration between Nigo and Pharrell Williams goes far beyond Billionaire Boys Club. It is often Pharrell who is credited for the popularity of Nigo's streetwear brand BAPE beyond its home market of Japan, both as a big fan of the brand and as a collaborator. In 2006, Williams gave BAPE's "Road Sta" sneaker a makeover. Altogether, there were three colour variants of the sneaker, the heel of which was adorned with a stylised comic face of the singer. Today, the collaboration is still in high demand on the resale market.
Williams first made his acquaintance with Louis Vuitton back in 2004, once again working hand-in-hand with Nigo to design a range of sunglasses dubbed "Millionaire". While the original collection was fashioned under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, it was Virgil Abloh who brought the "Millionaire" sunglasses back out of the archives for his Louis Vuitton debut and christened them "1.1 Millionaires".
Two years after the sunglasses collection, Williams once again collaborated with Louis Vuitton, this time alongside jewellery designer Camille Miceli. Williams himself starred in the campaign for the resulting "Blason" collection, a position he would continue to hold for various fashion houses in the years to come.
Shortly after Nigo left streetwear label BAPE behind in November 2013, he dedicated himself to a new role as creative director of Uniqlo's "UT" t-shirt line. One of his first executive decisions was a collaboration with his sidekick Pharrell Williams. The "I am other" capsule for the Japanese fashion giant included T-shirts for men and women in 14 colours, as well as seven baseball caps adorned with slogans such as "Think Other" and "The same is lame". For both artists, the work with Uniqlo was the first journey away from streetwear and luxury fashion.
Pharrell has been working with Adidas since 2014. Over the course of the partnership, the two collaborators have designed numerous sneaker models and brought new splendour to classics from the Herzogenaurach-based sporting goods manufacturer, such as the Superstar sneaker. Adidas also distributes the Humanrace unisex fashion line designed by Williams, which is known for high-quality basics.
Two years ago, the singing designer also launched an independent skincare line under the same name. The artist's extensive contacts and connections have also helped Adidas secure some high-profile collaborators, such as Nigo and luxury fashion house Chanel.
Not many artists or fashion designers, regardless of their status in the industry, can count Chanel among their collaborators. Williams, however, has developed a unique relationship with the French brand as one of its few male ambassadors. He modelled alongside Cara Delevingne for the 2015 pre-fall collection before shooting again for the Gabrielle Bag campaign.
Williams and Karl Lagerfeld, who was still at the helm of the fashion house at the time, took a first step towards a joint collection when they designed a limited-edition sneaker for Adidas in 2017. Two years later, shortly after Lagerfeld's death, the "Chanel Pharrell" capsule followed.
The partnership between Pharrell Williams and denim brand G-Star stems from a sustainable project in 2014. The designer launched the "Raw for the Oceans" denim line with sustainable denim made from recycled bottles, before being awarded the title of Head of Imagination for the brand and overseeing G-Star's collections, campaigns and corporate strategy.
It was also at this time that it was announced that Pharrell Williams was joining the Amsterdam-based brand as a co-owner to focus on the sustainable future of the brand. It is unclear to what extent the creative is still part of the company today.
Ahead of the first glimpse of Williams' first performance as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, the designer will be part of Moncler's "Genius Project" at London Fashion Week on 20 February. Williams has been working with Moncler since 2010, collaborating with the Italian luxury brand on various projects including a reversible waistcoat made from recyclable Bionic Yarn and a trio of sunglasses. In 2022, for Moncler's 70th anniversary, the brand invited Williams and seven other creatives to reinterpret the iconic "Maya" down jacket.
Will Louis Vuitton be followed by an engagement to Tiffany?
Ever since Pharrell Williams sat in the front row of the Kenzo show in January 2022 wearing a pair of custom-made sunglasses from Tiffany & Co, the rumour mill has been abuzz. "Tiffany and I are engaged," the artist told industry magazine WWD at the time. He also added that the glasses were one of the many things he would be doing with Tiffany & Co. Now that he is officially signed to Tiffany parent company LVMH, a collaboration seems more likely than ever, especially considering that the jeweller has just discovered its penchant for streetwear and collaborated with Nike.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.de.