Pharrell Williams says he’s ‘collaborating in spirit’ with Virgil Abloh

 Louis Vuitton Men’s newest creative director, Pharrell Williams, opens up about his predecessor Virgil Abloh’s lasting impact.

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Earlier this summer, Pharrell Williams made his debut as creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear, successfully showcasing his inaugural collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Now, Williams welcomes GQ into his world, posing for the cover of its September Hype issue. 

Pharrell Williams GQ cover, Pharrell Williams Louis Vuitton, Pharrell Williams Virgil Abloh,
Pharrell Williams on the cover of GQ’s 2023 September Hype Issue (Credit: Fanny Latour-Lambert/GQ)

In February 2023, the luxury fashion house announced Williams as its new creative director of menswear, a role that had remained vacant since the untimely passing of Virgil Abloh in November 2021. Though social media had mixed views about the Grammy-winning artist’s appointment, Williams revealed to GQ that the opportunity was equally unexpected for him. The polymath recalled sitting in his Miami Beach studio when Louis Vuitton CEO Pietro Beccari contacted him about the role. 

“It wasn’t an interview or anything,” Williams told GQ. “It was like, ‘Will you accept this position? Will you accept this appointment?’ I’m looking at the water, and I’m just like, ‘What?’ ”

Williams is no stranger to the fashion world. In addition to his stratospheric music career, he has been a longtime creative partner of Adidas, as well as a creative force behind streetwear labels like Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream, Human Made, and G-Star Raw Denim, making him an influential figure in streetwear fashion with equal ties to luxury fashion. Having maintained a longstanding and significant partnership with Chanel under the guidance of the legendary Karl Lagerfeld, Williams made his mark as a collaborator, occasional runway model, and a prominent fixture in the front rows of numerous high-profile fashion shows. 

Despite his history in the fashion industry, Williams never imagined he would be considered to succeed Abloh at Louis Vuitton. The star revealed he had actually advocated for his good friend and frequent collaborator Nigo, the artistic director of LVMH legacy brand Kenzo. 

“He’s my hero, he’s my brother, and he’s the general,” said Williams. “I’ve been championing him for a minute. And whenever me and Alexandre [Arnault, son of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault] talk about LV, we would always just talk about different people. I’ve always been in the background, just advising. I never thought that it would be me.”

As the second Black man to fill the men’s creative director position, Williams continues to pay his respects to his widely celebrated predecessor, Virgil Abloh. From bringing the last of Abloh’s designs for the label to fruition to dedicating his first Louis Vuitton show to him, Williams honors the unfortunate truth that his new role resulted from the Off-White founder’s passing. 

“I’ll always pay homage to him,” Williams told GQ. “I always knew Virgil was special. “It’s like we’re collaborating in spirit.”

Today, the Louis Vuitton office has a built-in recording studio in the area where Abloh once installed a DJ booth. For Williams, an award-winning producer and recording artist, the space represents the intersection between his passion for music and fashion. 

“I go back and forth between music and clothes,” Williams explained. “Songs and shoes, accessories and harmonies. And it’s one fluid thing.”

According to Beccari, Williams’ creativity and untraditional background made him a natural next choice to lead the luxury brand. 

“I needed someone who was again connected to the arts, who could touch the hearts of people through music and fashion, but also collaborations,” said Beccari, per GQ. “He has 13 Grammys and even Oscar nominations. One could say he has a Midas touch. So, as a creative director, while it’s an experiment, I think it will be a successful one.”

As the new creative director hopes to contribute to Louis Vuitton’s growth, Williams says he is not solely focused on fiscal development. 

“Growth and taste, growth and setting the bar, growth and exceeding standards. The money follows that,” Williams explained. “We’re not going to just do things just to make money, or else we’ll just keep making the same belts and sh-t. That’s not what I was brought here to do. I was brought here to shake the tree. That’s how you get the sweetest apples.” 

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