Louis Vuitton has lacked creative direction since the passing of Virgil Abloh, their former artistic director, in 2021. On Feb. 14, it was finally announced that American singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams would be the new creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. Despite the excitement surrounding the fashion icon’s new role, Louis Vuitton’s decision is disappointingly safe, choosing a big-name celebrity to fill the position, instead of a young designer with training and potential.
Williams has been involved with fashion throughout his career. Aside from producing music, he founded streetwear labels Billionaire Boys Club and ICE CREAM footwear. He has partnered with brands including Moncler, Adidas, G-Star Raw and Uniqlo. Williams co-designed eyewear and jewelry for Louis Vuitton in 2004 and 2008, and he has been a long-time associate of the brand.
The issue lies not in Williams himself, as he is a beloved figure with unique personal style and ample experience in fashion design. However, Williams lacks the technical knowledge of the fashion industry that creative directors should be expected to have.
There’s no rule that creative directors must have formal schooling in design. After all, they are in charge of establishing the brand’s vision, not sketching or sewing. Nonetheless, successful creative directors such as Demna Gvasalia and Maria Grazia Chiuri generally come from a fashion background because they are capable of navigating the technical ins and outs of the industry. Possessing a deep understanding of fashion history, as well as textiles and the supply chain, allows creative directors to establish a feasible and grounded vision.
Even if the role does not require expertise in clothesmaking, it still calls for a comprehensive knowledge of the field — something Williams does not have. Williams’ iconic personal fashion does not indicate his ability to effectively shape Louis Vuitton’s aesthetic. Instead, the position should have been offered to a skilled designer with a strong reputation in both fashion design and technical knowledge.
Louis Vuitton may have appointed Williams as the new creative director to improve brand recognition. Yet, “Louis Vuitton” is already an esteemed enough name, and it does not need to use Williams’ fame to create news. As a company, this decision might have been the more logical thing to do: the public still has not forgotten about Abloh and his influence, and his vision was so well-loved that people are unwilling to part with his era of Louis Vuitton. By choosing Williams, someone who also embraces a love for streetwear and hip-hop just like Abloh, the fashion house is playing it safe.
Louis Vuitton is stuck in limbo, unable to move past Abloh’s influence. Choosing Williams, who has the reputation of being a style icon and has already collaborated with the brand before, might have been a wise choice for the brand’s new CEO Pietro Beccari. However, the appointment displays a lack of creativity and evolution, both essential elements within the industry.
Creative directors influence the brand’s vision, refreshing the brand’s aesthetic by incorporating their own styles. For example, Tom Ford’s Gucci embodies a provocative porno chic style that differs greatly from Alessandro Michele’s post-gender geek chic Gucci aesthetic. Daniel Lee’s influence on Bottega Veneta and Burberry has created entirely new looks for both fashion houses. However, given the similarities between Williams and Abloh’s streetwear styles, it is clear that a style revolution is unlikely for Louis Vuitton.
Ultimately, Louis Vuitton’s appointment of Williams as its new Men’s Creative Director is disappointingly safe, a wasted opportunity for Louis Vuitton to revitalize their image. On the bright side, Williams’ first collection will be showcased in June at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris]. This is his chance to prove that he has as much of a unique vision for Louis Vuitton as his predecessors did.
Grace Tu is a Social Media Manager for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at email@example.com.