A longtime supporter, and friend of Abloh, Williams’ appointment puts an end to months of speculation about who next would take on the highly coveted role.
Emerging talent such as the Jamaican-British designers Martine Rose and Grace Wales Bonner were previously said to be under discussion, so for many insiders the announcement of Williams was somewhat unexpected.
However, his appointment is a reflection of the continued intersection of the luxury and streetwear sectors and hints at the direction LVMH wants to take the brand.
Abloh, who was hailed as a fashion maverick, was widely praised for widening Louis Vuitton’s appeal. He rebooted the idea of luxury, marrying it with the worlds of hip-hop and hype culture, and in doing so attracting a more diverse and younger consumer.
In a statement from Louis Vuitton to announce the appointment of Williams, the rapper was described as a “visionary whose creative universes expand from music to art, and to fashion. The way in which he breaks boundaries across the various worlds he explores aligns with Louis Vuitton’s status as a cultural maison, reinforcing its values of innovation, pioneer spirit and entrepreneurship”.
His first collection will be revealed in June 2024 during men’s fashion week in Paris.
Williams first came to prominence in the 1990s as part of the Neptunes, a songwriting and hip-hop production duo he formed with Chad Hugo. They worked with artists including Gwen Stefani and Snoop Dogg.
Regarded as one of most influential music producers of the 21st century, Williams holds 13 Grammy awards and in 2014 his song Happy was nominated for an Academy Award.
A prolific entrepreneur, he regularly sits on the front row at fashion weeks and co-owns the streetwear label Human Made with Kenzo’s creative director Nigo. He also oversees his own labels Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.
Williams has a longstanding partnership with Adidas Originals and recently launched a skincare line Humanrace.
In 2019, he designed a collection for Chanel, while in January 2022 he unveiled a design collection with Tiffany, the renowned jewellery brand acquired by the LVMH group in 2021.
He has also previously collaborated with Louis Vuitton. A line of sunglasses he created for the brand in 2008 were re-issued by Abloh in 2018.
In a statement posted on Louis Vuitton’s Instagram, Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton’s chairman and CEO 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 appointment of Williams is one of Beccari’s first significant moves since joining the house in January. He previously led Dior.
The LVMH group, which owns Louis Vuitton, enjoyed a record year in 2022, recording revenues of €79.2bn (£69.9bn) and profits of €21.1bn, both up 23%. It is now the biggest company on the European stock market. In December Bernard Arnault, the conglomerate’s chief executive, was named the world’s richest person, pushing Elon Musk off the top spot.
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