By Angelina Rascouet
Louis Vuitton named music producer Pharrell Williams as its new menswear designer, filling a role previously held by the late Virgil Abloh.
The appointment is effective immediately and Williams will unveil his debut collection at the Paris menswear fashion week in June, the French brand said in a statement Tuesday.
Williams is the second Black person to hold one of the most prestigious roles at the world’s biggest fashion label. Abloh was Louis Vuitton’s menswear star designer before his death from cancer in 2021 at the age 41.
Williams’ “creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter,” Pietro Beccari, the brand’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.
Williams first rose to fame in the late 1990s as part of a hip-hop production duo The Neptunes. Since then he has cemented his position as a household name with a string of Grammy Award wins, hit singles and Oscar nominations.
Like Abloh, who is remembered for his influence on streetwear and sneaker culture with his brand Off-White, Williams is also an apparel entrepreneur. In 2003, he and Japanese designer Nigo founded Billionaire Boys Club, a clothing, accessories and lifestyle brand. Nigo is now the artistic director of LVMH’s Kenzo.
Since then Williams has worked with other brands, including German sneaker maker Adidas AG and has founded skincare brand Humanrace.
Louis Vuitton is the juggernaut that helps power the wider LVMH luxury empire founded by the world’s richest person, Bernard Arnault. Sales at the label crossed €20 billion ($21.4 billion) last year and although LVMH doesn’t break down profit by brand, analysts at HSBC have estimated Louis Vuitton generates about half of the group’s annual profit.
“Louis Vuitton is far more than just a fashion company,” Arnault told analysts and reporters a year ago. “In fact, it’s not a fashion company, it’s a culturally creative company that reaches out to a very important customer base.”
Louis Vuitton’s menswear shows have become the go-to events during Paris Fashion Week. In the past year, musicians such as Tyler The Creator, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), Kendrick Lamar and, last month, Spanish star Rosalia have performed for the guests attending the shows, giving the brand unparalleled visibility in the age of Instagram posts.
Williams himself is close to LVMH. In the past year, he’s attended Kenzo’s shows in Paris and worn diamond sunglasses by Tiffany & Co., both LVMH labels. The artist also did collaborations with Louis Vuitton in 2004 and 2008.
The announcement comes as Beccari recently took over as CEO of LVMH’s largest label, after running Christian Dior Couture, the group’s second-biggest brand, which is now headed by Delphine Arnault, Arnault’s eldest child.
Louis Vuitton’s womenswear design is led by artistic director Nicolas Ghesquiere.
The news of Williams joining Louis Vuitton was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and Le Figaro.
–With assistance from Kim Bhasin.
(Updates with company statement, details on Vuitton shows)
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