Since the passing of Virgil Abloh in November of 2021, French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton has been on the search for a menswear creative director. On February 14th, they announced musician and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams would be taking on the role. Williams’ first collection will debut in June 2023 at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.
Along with being a household name in the music industry, Williams has had his foot in fashion since 2005 when he founded the streetwear label Billionaire Boys Club along with Bape founder Nigo. Williams’ relationship with Louis Vuitton goes back to 2004 when he designed the widely popular Millionaire sunglasses, which Abloh revamped and re-released as the 1.1 Millionaires sunglasses in his first collection for the brand. He worked with brands such as Moncler, Chanel, Uniqlo, G-Star, and Adidas. He has a creative touch that transcends his skills in music production and has led him to create many noteworthy campaigns for both high fashion and everyday brands.
Following Abloh’s passing, Louis Vuitton held off on the selection of a creative director for 15 months. His remaining menswear team continued creating collections for the entire duration of 2022, which paid tribute to the legacy left by Abloh.
The choice of Williams is largely being considered a choice that was not obvious but one that still lines up with Louis Vuitton’s future creative vision based on the groundbreaking successes of Abloh. Many view it as an exciting and commendable choice, but it has also ignited controversy surrounding celebrity designers and their easy access to creative markets through their connections within the industry. The most popular predictions for Abloh’s successor were Grace Wales Bonner, Martine Rose, and Telfar Clemens, most of whom have had a more standard designer career path. As a celebrity designer, Williams represents a shift away from the traditional and more towards luxury streetwear and marketing, a trend already put in motion by Abloh. This ongoing focus, while more relatable to the consumer, reflects the fast-paced consumerism of our time. With Louis Vuitton being the most valuable luxury brand in the world, other brands are sure to follow in their path. This creative director choice reaffirms the centrality of celebrity and the current trajectory of luxury fashion away from tradition. Though Williams will have to prove his potential as a creative director, his major impact on the music industry and fashion since the 2000s shows promise for continuity of the streetwear-driven freshness that Abloh brought to the brand years before.
Words Robin Pyo, Frances Bobbitt
Armour Magazine Season 30 — F/S 2023