WHAT PHARRELL WILLIAMS’ APPOINTMENT TO LOUIS VUITTON MEANS FOR MENSWEAR
CULTURAL TASTEMAKERS OVER TRADITIONAL DESIGNERS
As fashion giant, Louis Vuitton, appoints the much-anticipated successor to the late Virgil Abloh, the industry is left wondering: what direction will Pharrell Williams take Louis Vuitton in next? As a longstanding friend and supporter of Abloh, the appointment of Pharrell Williams ends months of speculation around who would lead the creative direction of the brand going forward. Similar to Abloh, a Renaissance man of many pursuits, Williams will likely take Louis Vuitton further into the realms of elevated streetwear.
The multi-hyphenate creative; producer, singer, songwriter, designer, skincare founder, philanthropist (the list is not exhaustive), Williams’ new role marks a social, creative, and commercial recognition of the industry’s demand for greater diversity. In a tragically, prematurely shortened tenure at Louis Vuitton (2018-2021), Abloh set a new precedent for the brand and its followers. He curated concepts and designs for the masses, redefining the concept of contemporary luxury. Abloh was traditionally trained in architecture and engineering. His highly acclaimed success at Louis Vuitton relinquished the idea that traditional training was required to lead the creative direction of one of the world’s most successful and longstanding luxury fashion houses. Instead, it was supplanted with the role of a cross-industry tastemaker.
Williams’ appointment kicks off an altogether new direction for one of the most prominent fashion houses of our time, he will again prove, whether, or not, the creative direction of the house requires traditional training to be successful. In a statement released to announce the new creative direction of the brand, Pietro Beccari (Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton), said “I am glad to welcome Pharrell 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.”
The move also marks Louis Vuitton’s move toward its desired status as a cultural maison, “reinforcing its values of innovation, pioneer spirit and entrepreneurship”. Williams’ new role with not only nods to the creative direction of the brand but is acknowledgement of a recent, implicit understanding across the industry that brands must stay adaptive across media. From music, to film, to technology, to social and ethical pursuits, Williams seamlessly traverses these fields and so, in some senses, his appointment is not all that surprising. Williams’ first collection for Louis Vuitton will be revealed this June during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.
Orla is a London-based fashion, arts and culture journalist, with a personal and professional habit in menswear. Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, she now specialises in the fashion business space, consulting to a number of brands on their business strategy and optimising for sustainable, long-term growth.