Another big change is happening over at LMVH. In the first move from Louis Vuitton’s new CEO Pietro Beccari, music producer Pharrell Williams is filling Virgil Abloh’s shoes as the creative director of the brand’s men’s division.
Fashion fans and followers were caught off guard by this development, especially after the light rumors that British-Jamaican menswear designer Martine Rose was in talks for the role.
Prior to Pharrell’s appointment, Louis Vuitton led us to believe they would bring on a series of guest designers, à la the current Jean Paul Gaultier landscape, before finding the official successor. KidSuper’s Colm Dillane was the first and only guest designer to co-create with Vuitton. For Fall 2023, he made a collection full of splashy color and fun harmonies of the KidSuper ethos and Abloh’s long-lasting vision.
With the help of LV’s in-house design team, Dillane rose to the occasion and seemed a great fit to fill the massive shoes left behind by Abloh. Many speculated that this guest appointment might, at the very least, come with a sequel. Yet, the weeks that followed his well-received show bore no word of Dillane’s return or even a note on the next guest designer. As we waited, in anticipation, for more on the brand’s future, Louis Vuitton delivered the announcement of Pharrell’s appointment on Valentine’s Day. Aw.
As soon as Business of Fashion made the news Instagram official, the comments floated between curiosity and excitement, but mostly, disappointment.
While many continued to root for Martine Rose and other female designers that would make a great fit (such as Grace Wales Bonner of her namesake brand Wales Bonner), some questioned the producer’s design credentials. To the latter, I say, let’s not forget that design school does not a great designer make. Some historically great couturiers and designers dropped out, couldn’t afford or skipped formal education to pursue fashion, and it didn’t break or make their talent.
However, there is much to be said about female designers, especially Black ones, constantly being overlooked in luxury fashion’s consistent game of creative director musical chairs.
This isn’t Pharrell’s first rodeo with Louis Vuitton. He first collaborated with the brand in 2004 with fellow music producer Nigo on a collection of sunglasses dubbed Millionaire.
The killer shades were well-received by influential Louis Vuitton fans like Kanye West and Pharrell’s predecessor Virgil Abloh. Pharrell returned to Louis Vuitton in 2008 for a jewelry collab with LV’s then jewelry consultant Camille Miceli. The blingy collection was titled Blason and featured diamond-heavy bracelets and solid gold rings.
Last year, Vuitton reported their annual revenue surpassed €20 billion. A lofty price that puts pressure on CEO Pietro Beccari to keep building on that kind of growth. A celebrity at the helm of creative decisions is the safe and expected choice to get this done.