In a new cover story for GQ’s September Hype issue, Pharrell Williams invites style editor Noah Johnson into his studio, as well as to his hometown of Virginia Beach, and his new home in Paris.Through a series of intimate conversations, the two discuss the first months of Pharrell’s reign as Creative Director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, Virgil Abloh’s lasting impact, and what he has planned for the future.
…On first being offered the LV opportunity: “I never thought that it would be me”
Pharrell admits that when the Louis Vuitton job was first broached, it seemed to come out of the blue. “It wasn’t an interview or anything,” Pharrell remembers. “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?’”
Pharrell had been in talks with folks at LVMH about who might succeed Virgil Abloh – offering names and sharing opinions – but he did not realize that he himself was being considered. He expected the choice to be Nigo, his longtime friend and collaborator who currently heads LVMH brand, Kenzo. “I’ve been championing him for a minute. And whenever me and Alexandre would 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.”
Louis Vuitton CEO, Pietro Beccari, on appointing Pharrell
“After the untimely departure of Virgil Abloh, I don’t think I could have chosen a traditionally trained designer,” Louis Vuitton CEO, Pietro Beccari, tells GQ. “I needed someone who was again connected to the arts, who could touch the hearts of people through music and fashion, but also collaborations.” He adds, “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.”
…On Virgil Abloh’s impact: “It’s like we’re collaborating in spirit”
The studio that Pharrell built to record in the LV office is the same spot where Virgil Abloh had installed a DJ booth. It is a brutal reality that this huge opportunity for Pharrell has only been possible because of the tragic and untimely death of Abloh. “I always knew Virgil was special,” Pharrell says, adding that he’s maintained the connection to Abloh through Louis Vuitton, and some Abloh-designed pieces remain in the line. “It’s like we’re collaborating in spirit,” Pharrell says. And he has plans to continue to develop the house’s relationship to skateboarding, something that was initiated by Abloh. “I’ll always pay homage to him.”
…On the future of Louis Vuitton
“The house has aspirations to grow exponentially, but that growth is not just numbers,” he says. “Growth and taste, growth and setting the bar, growth and exceeding standards. The money follows that. 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.”
[Photo Credit: Fanny Latour-Lambert for GQ Magazine]
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