All of this suggests that Williams will bring the best of himself to Louis Vuitton. And even if he hasn’t gone to fashion school—the most common criticism being slung his way online—there’s no doubting that he’s enjoyed a pretty incredible education. Just one example: Last September in Paris, Vogue’s Anna Wintour invited Williams to speak at the announcement of this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Exhibition. Introducing Andrew Bolton, who is curating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” Williams said: “I first heard about Chanel through The Notorious B.I.G…. [but] I never thought in a million years that I would ever meet Karl. You see, he had a vision for lifestyle and design. His creativity was always led by a narrative. There was always a story. For him, everything was about a scene. If you knew what the scene was, then you knew the kind of people that were there. And if you knew what kind of people that were there, then you knew what they were wearing. And most likely what they were thinking.”
He later added: “Detail is what made him so good. Karl was the ultimate collaborator—he would embrace others’ ideas and come back with them bifurcated a thousand-fold. He had an innate ability to be deeply and subliminally personal, and was a master at communicating in ways that usually words never could… I’m inspired to carry his true love and partnership into my own creative process. And I know that I feel super lucky—no pun intended—I feel super fortunate to be able to tell people: Man, I was there. I saw it. I felt it. I experienced his energy.”
One last point of reference comes from one of Pharrell’s own OTHERtone podcasts, his first of 2021, in which he was joined by Virgil Abloh (plus Scott, KAWS, and Fam-Lay) to discuss creativity. When Abloh mentions being in the Vuitton studio, Williams acknowledges the mic-drop power of that achievement. And later, after Abloh has referred to the inflatable sculpture he had just commissioned the LV studio to prepare (for what would prove to be the house’s first show after his sudden death), the designer discusses his legacy.
Abloh says: “What I would be more impressed by is if the next candidate for a house, the next head designer, has this multidisciplinary background—comes from not a fashion school, and thinks in a different dimension. Let him get a shot.”
Williams—of course unwitting of the future to come—adds: “And what I love about you [meaning Abloh] is you really get and exercise the idea that we need to be holding open the doors that we got through. And there hasn’t been a lot of that. You know, in fact, there are people who superglue the doors behind them shut! We do the exact opposite. We hold the doors open. We share the codes.”
Pharrell Williams to Louis Vuitton is, for sure, a “celebrity hire.” Colm Dillane did a great job at January’s most recent LV mens show—a really great job, from where I was sitting—but the house felt obliged to help him fill menswear’s biggest single stage with Rosalía and other collaborators. Williams has the wattage to fill that stage alone. And should he elect to hold the doors open, following the legacy of Lagerfeld and Abloh and leaning on the input of Nigo [with whom he co-owns the streetwear brand Human Made], and define his intentional approach to Louis Vuitton’s output, then you suspect that he will find his way—a.k.a. fashion.