The appointment of Pharrell Williams to head Louis Vuitton‘s men’s collections may work, writes the Financial Time. The fact that a person with little fashion experience covers the role of creative director of a luxury giant does not preclude the possibility of success: there are illustrious precedents. But the magazine does not hide the more questionable aspects of LVMH‘s choice: if celebrity overrides competence, the result for fashion is a frustrating message.
The appointment of Pharrell Williams
OK, Pharrell Williams is first and foremost a musician and winner of 13 Grammy Awards. But he has a fashion background: “His forays into fashion have seen him walk the runway for Chanel,” reads the FT. “Collaborate with Japanese designer Nigo in the creation of two hugely successful streetwear brands, and join forces with Adidas for a long time”. The original flaw remains, however: “Williams is not a designer”. But that does not preclude the possibility of success. The British newspaper recalls that “Ralph Lauren founded an empire from selling ties to shopkeepers. Karl Lagerfeld had no training in fashion. While Miuccia Prada returned to run the family maison with a PhD in political science”.
“The appointment of Pharrell Williams brings with it,” the FT points out, “the tacit recognition that, when it comes to customer relations, celebrity is the most important factor”. That such recognition comes “from a fashion house that has always promoted a narrative linked to craftsmanship and savoir faire” is particularly indicative of the direction the fashion industry is taking.
LVMH had already had bargains in this direction by financing Fenty, Rihanna‘s startup, and giving the same role that Williams now holds to Virgil Abloh in 2019. But it is a risky direction, denounces FT, as it frustrates those who study, frequent and cultivate fashion. It is of little comfort to think that at the disposal of pop stars who have become creative directors there are teams where real stylists work. The message that goes out to the young recruits of the fashion system is that it is “more profitable to invest in popularity than in training”.
Shutterstock photo Pharrell William