It’s official: Pharrell Williams is the next designer of Louis Vuitton Men’s. In a move that will shake up the luxury menswear landscape, and mark a new era of celebrity fashion designers, the global celebrity and fashion aficionado has been tapped by Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH to take over the job held by Virgil Abloh before his death in late 2021. Pharrell’s debut collection will be unveiled in Paris in June.
In a statement, Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO characterized Pharrell’s appointment as a homecoming. “I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 2008 for Louis Vuitton, as our new Men’s Artistic Director. His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter.”
Pharrell has a long history of collaborating with luxury brands, starting with Louis Vuitton. In 2004, he collaborated with then-Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs on a line of sunglasses, which were re-issued by Abloh—a Pharrell friend and collaborator—2018. Pharrell has also designed splashy collaborations with Chanel and Moncler, which will unveil a new Pharrell-branded collection this weekend in London. He also has a longstanding partnership with Adidas Originals and recently launched a skincare line, Humanrace.
For decades, Pharrell has articulated a hyper-modern sense of style that now resonates deeply with a new generation of fashion fans. “When you listen to yourself and you’re comfortable in who you are, you wear what you feel like fits and looks right on you. And that’s it,” he told GQ in 2019, when he fronted the New Masculinity Issue wearing a ballgown puffer. In the early-2000s, as the frontman of N.E.R.D., he broke the mold of hip-hop style by integrating elements of skateboarder-wear. His evolving sensibility eventually predicted the rise of gender-neutral clothing when he embraced womenswear designs by then-Céline creative director Phoebe Philo, and he became the first man to appear in a Chanel ad in 2017.
The ties between Pharrell and LVMH had been tightening in the lead-up to the appointment. LVMH installed Pharrell’s creative consigliere, the Japanese producer and designer Nigo, at the helm of Kenzo in 2021. Pharrell and Nigo’s intertwined careers go back to the early-2000s, when the duo founded the deeply influential streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club, and Pharrell is now a regular front row presence at Kenzo shows. He has also recently been sporting custom diamond-encrusted shades he designed with Tiffany & Co., LVMH’s latest luxury brand acquisition.
Installing Pharrell at Louis Vuitton Men’s would be the denouement of the LVMH strategy to turn its luxury brands into global pop cultural movements. Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Yayoi Kusama has seen cities around the world blanketed in the Japanese designer’s polka dots, and the most recent Louis Vuitton Men’s show featured a Rosalía performance that had little to do with the clothes, but everything to do with creating a massive social media moment. That collection featured pieces guest-designed by Colm Dillane of KidSuper, which put Dillane in the pole position to snag the creative director gig. But LVMH is perhaps thinking bigger, and employing a turnaround strategy similar to the one employed at Tiffany. LVMH’s re-launch of Tiffany began with a Beyoncé- and Jay-Z-fronted campaign, and has since gone on to include Pharrell himself. When asked by WWD about the custom diamond sunglasses, Pharrell hinted that they were merely the first look at a long-term partnership. “Tiffany and I are engaged,” he told WWD, stating that he and the NYC-based jeweler had “many things” in the works.
Now, Pharrell has been promoted to one of the most visible roles in men’s fashion, and will be responsible for producing two collections a year comprising bags, accessories, and ready-to-wear. Pharrell has yet to comment, but an ecstatic Instagram Story posted by his friend Pusha-T said it all: this is happening, and it’s definitely a big deal.