Source: The New York Times
My mother always said that flowers were the most romantic gifts you could give anyone for Valentine’s Day – Pharrell and Louis Vuitton proved her wrong. So in an Instagram post on Saint Valentine’s Day, Louis Vuitton announced that Pharrell would helm the Men’s Creative Director role following the late Virgil Abloh. “I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home…His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter,” wrote Louis Vuitton CEO Pietro Beccari. To say that the relationship between Louis Vuitton and their prodigal son is storied would be a massive understatement. Is appointing Pharrell a safe landing–a return to form? Or is it the start of something new, a fresh rebirth from old ties–a renaissance?
In the same way we revisit old friends, Pharrell’s foray into the Creative Director seat calls upon years and years of collaborations and overall fashion history between the pair. This story’s first chapter goes all the way back to the early 2000s, when Marc Jacobs, the creative director of LV at the time, commissioned Pharrell and longtime friend (also BAPE founder), Nigo, to design a sunglasses line which culminated in the now iconic Millionaire sunglasses; these “one part Tony Montana, one part Notorious B.I.G.” pieces shaded the likes of Jay-Z, Soulja Boy, and Victoria Beckham, among other celebrities and fashion enthusiasts. In fact, Virgil Abloh revived them for his 2018 collection due to the relevance the shades have maintained over decades.
Reuniting once again in 2008, Skateboard P (yes, that’s an actual nickname) linked up with Louis Vuitton’s then-jewelry consultant Camille Miceli to create the Blason collection – a jewelry drop “strictly for the baller” that rivals the Millionaire sunglasses in iconicity. With cherubs on rings and multi-colored stones encasing crown-shaped bracelet links, the Blason collection not only solidified Pharrell’s relationship with Louis, but also propelled him into becoming one of the most iconic jewelry designers and curators.
And so, after many more storied chapters with the most groundbreaking, exclusive, and sought-after brands (Richard Mille, Chanel, Tiffany and Co. to name a few), Pharrell’s return to Louis Vuitton with a more established role may allow the cultural icon to further his creative expanse with LV’s resources. Constantly at the forefront of culture, Pharrell’s relevance has barely withered despite leaning more towards his role as a producer in the past few years. Even in today’s day and age, put anything on the Auto Goon (I swear I’m not making these nicknames up) and loyal fans and fashion enthusiasts alike will be seen sporting those same pieces a week later. Even back then, while we were still toddlers, countless fashion trends of the 2000s could be attributed to Station Wagon P (ok I’ll stop); whether it’s a yellow gold Audemars Piguet or a bevy of diamond-encrusted Jacob and Co. chains hanging from his neck, Pharrell’s tastemaking has combined the tastes of both the modern artist and fashion icon.
His network of influential friends and acquaintances that nears Dunbar’s number is also a sight to behold. From his many years among the upper echelon of culture, an armada of artists, creatives, fashion designers, and cultural pioneers are at his disposal if ever Pharrel wants to call upon reinforcements. Before Pharrell’s announcement, LV had recruited Yayoi Kusama and KidSuper designer Colm Dillane for separate collaborative capsules, indicating that the fashion house is very much open to working with a wide variety of creatives.
But is all that enough to helm one of the largest brands in the world? Is Pharrell up to the task after all these years? When Abloh was appointed, he came running out of the gate, climbing to his prime through Louis Vuitton, not after the fact. Yet that’s not to say that there is much doubt in Pharrell’s skills as a tastemaker and fashion prophet all these years later: In all actuality, it seems that Pharrell has willingly took the backseat in recent years, choosing to focus on cultivating stability in his influence as opposed to constantly creating the next big wave (not that he doesn’t cause large ripples every now and then). So in coming out of this passive period, can Pharrell reach the same heights he once did? Can he ever exceed them?
Furthermore, why didn’t LV choose to appoint a younger, fresher creative director? Among the many choices at their disposal, Martine Rose of her eponymous brand or Chitose Abe of Sacai may have paved the way for the fashion house’s future. After all, wasn’t it the case that Abloh began as Been Trill’s and Pyrex/Off-White’s founder and designer before he was called up by Louis Vuitton? If anything, Pharrell’s non-experimental appointment possibly reflects that LV may want to return to form as opposed to surfing the groundbreaking wave Abloh set forward during his appointment. Would that really be the right move?
Nevertheless, Pharrell is not one to be scoffed at, yet neither is he one to be assured by as far as his role as the Men’s Creative Director. Arising from all this ambiguity is the certainty that Louis Vuitton is undergoing renaissance in one way or another–either by reinventing themselves through the lens of a cultural frontiersman or by undergoing rebirth and returning to what and who they know best. In all honesty, all that seems to be missing from this revelation is the excitement–the decision to appoint Pharrell just seems safe. But by all means, P. Willy (last one), prove us wrong and blow us away.
Written by Lucas Sumartha