How Pharrell’s style could shape Louis Vuitton

OPINION: The style icon was just named LV's creative director of menswear, and his fashion sense gives clues to how his era at Vuitton will look.

Pharrell Tiffany Collab
(Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images For Kenzo)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Pharrell, the style icon, is the new creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, and I wonder what sorts of things he’ll create for them. The answer may lie in the style choices he’s been making for years.

Pharrell is nothing if not the ultimate kidult. Kidult is a term fashion and culture people have long use to describe someone, usually an adult male, who has a strong childlike quality. Perhaps he’s a grownup who’s deeply into toys and items that bring up a nostalgia for his youth. Pharrell definitely seems like someone who’s in touch with his inner teenage skater boy and is unafraid to be deeply in touch with him. We see this in the bright, bold, vibrant colors he gravitates toward in his personal style and in the items he’s created for Adidas like his Human Race sneakers

A lot of his work with the legendary Japanese designer Nigo on Billionaire Boys Club also evokes the sense of a kidult. There’s often a whimsical nature to Pharrell’s design aesthetic. I would expect his Vuitton to seem playful perhaps in the way that the work of his friend, the legendary visual artist Takashi Murakami, also seems playful though meant for adults. Some of Pharrell’s exuberant color play could stem from him having synesthesia, a mental condition where you experience one of the five senses and then have an involutary response from one of the others. For Pharrell, in his mind, he experiences music as colors. He once told Psychology Today: “For every color, there is a sound, a vibration, a part of the human body, a number, a musical note.” I would expect his Vuitton to be whimsical, colorful, and playful with designs and things that take us back to childhood.

He’s also part of the modern movement that’s breaking down the walls of masculinity. More and more, we see men, including straight Black men, dressing in ways that challenge traditional gender paradigms in favor of something more gender fluid. We see this in Kid Cudi wearing a dress on “Saturday Night Live” or Russell Westbrook wearing a skirt on a trip to New York Fashion Week. Nowadays, many truly stylish men are unafraid to shop in the women’s department, and they understand the potentially revolutionary impact of wearing clothes that were originally meant for women. Pharrell was on the cover of GQ’s New Masculinity issue in 2019 and told them he’s definitely into gender fluid style. He told them, “I do have my lines. Like, I can’t wear no skirt. Nor am I interested in wearing a blouse. That’s not my deal. But things that are made for women that I feel will look good on me — that I like — I will wear … And my point is, why not?” Look for him to present gender-fluid options and to play with the boundaries of what menswear is. 

Pharrell also has a big appreciation of hats and how to find iconic ones. Back when he was first growing into superfame circa “Frontin,” he was all about the trucker hat, which was floating around in American culture but was not then a part of hip-hop culture. He helped move it into hip-hop. Years later, circa “Happy,” Pharrell wore a tall Vivienne Westwood-designed buffalo hat and instantly turned it into an iconic and ubiquitous piece. I would expect to see great hats coming out of his era at Vuitton.

Pharrell loves big chunky jewelry, he has skateboard culture in his DNA, he’s deeply curious about Japanese aesthetics and he’s all about dressing preppy. I would expect to see elements of all of that in his time at Vuitton. But in his heart, he’s a hip-hop kid, who grew up on streetwear, and I think it’s fascinating and telling that Vuitton has followed the era of Virgil Abloh as creative director with the era of Pharrell. Both of them come from hip-hop and streetwear culture. Again, this elite luxury fashion house has turned to a Black man from hip-hop and streetwear to help lead them into the future. That, to me, speaks to how powerful hip-hop culture is in the world, and it should tell Pharrell that they are open to whatever he wants to do. I will probably not be buying much of Pharrell’s Vuitton. It’s generally beyond my price point, but I’m eager to see how he uses and remixes and redefines Vuitton, menswear, streetwear and hip-hop style.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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