Louis Vuitton has hired Pharrell Williams to become its new men’s creative director, opening a new chapter for the brand following the death of star designer Virgil Abloh in November 2021, the brand confirmed Tuesday in an Instagram post.
The appointment is the first big move by new CEO Pietro Beccari, who joined the brand from LVMH stablemate Dior this month, and confirms previous reports in the Wall Street Journal and Le Figaro.
The decision puts an end to months of speculation about who would take one of fashion’s top jobs. Designers Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner and Telfar Clemens were said to also be in the running for the role.
But the choice of Williams, a world-famous music producer and streetwear guru with 14.3 million Instagram followers, suggests that Vuitton is banking on celebrity star power and mass appeal to propel its men’s business in the post-Abloh era, a move that stands in contrast to the recent appointment of behind-the-scenes Valentino designer Sabato De Sarno at rival megabrand Gucci.
Last year, Louis Vuitton surpassed €20 billion in annual revenue, and future growth will require new CEO Beccari to extend its appeal still further. Vuitton recently unleashed the latest chapter of its blockbuster collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama and tapped superstar footballers Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the same campaign.
“[Williams’] creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter,” Beccari said in a statement.
The appointment is also a doubling down on the streetwear-inflected sensibility brought to the brand by Abloh. With collections that married street culture with high fashion, as well as his natural fluency with social media, Abloh helped broaden the brand’s appeal with a younger, more diverse customer base, creating a halo over the Vuitton mark that continued to pay dividends after his sudden death in 2021.
Williams is best known for his music career, dropping on chart topping hits like “Happy” and “Get Lucky.” Rising to prominence as part of hip-hop group N.E.R.D, Williams went on to produce tracks for A-list stars ranging from Gwen Stefani to Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.
But he also has long-standing links to the streetwear scene, co-founded pioneering streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club with Japanese musician and BAPE-founder Nigo in the early naughts. The duo have also launched BBC sub-labels Ice Cream, Bee Line and Billionaire Girls Club.
Williams has collaborated also with a string of major fashion brands, from Chanel and Moncler to Adidas, and even Louis Vuitton: in 2008, he teamed up with then-creative director Marc Jacobs on a jewellery line for the heritage house. In 2016, he became co-owner of denim brand G-Star Raw.
Williams first collection for Louis Vuitton will debut next June in Paris during Men’s Fashion Week, the brand said.
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