The announcement by Louis Vuitton that Pharrell Williams would succeed Virgil Abloh as the new creative director of menswear served as the foundation for the French luxury brand’s new business plan. LVMH is developing a new strategy to maintain its position as the most prosperous luxury group in the world and expand its 20 billion euro Louis Vuitton business by concentrating on celebrities, influencers, and artists.
A new designer appointment might not be as successful for Louis Vuitton as it has been for other labels with more minimal designs like Bottega Veneta and Ferragamo. During Paris Men’s Fashion Week in January, Louis Vuitton performed a multifaceted, high-octane show that successfully delivered on hype and brand buzz but may have fallen short on content. The brand’s new language doesn’t appear to be built around understated, timeless elegance.
Of course, Mr. Williams is no stranger to the fashion sector; he has established fruitful brand initiatives and worked with numerous others. Nevertheless, Mr. Williams lacks formal design training and technical understanding, as designers who chose to pursue academic careers at various houses will unapologetically point out.
One of the main criticisms of celebrities as fashion designers is that they are selected for their marketing potential and social reach over the skills that professional fashion designers have. This is true even though Louis Vuitton has teams of highly skilled designers, technicians, production managers, and ateliers at their disposal. While some celebrities may have a good sense of style, they rarely possess the broad range of abilities and expertise necessary to create a collection that strikes a balance between ageless elegance, practicality, and beauty.
Mr. Williams, who gained notoriety in the early 1990s as one half of the duo the Neptunes, has worked with a number of fashion companies and designers, including Adidas, Chanel, G-Star Raw, and Louis Vuitton. Along with these collaborations, Mr. William also co-founded Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream with Japanese designer Nigo, two prosperous businesses that have contributed just as much, if not more, to his considerable riches as his musical career. At the moment, Nigo serves as creative director at the LVMH-owned Kenzo. Both of these brands had Mr. Williams involved in the design process, and their success is largely due to his distinctive aesthetic and sense of style.
In 2004, during Marc Jacobs’ time as creative director at Louis Vuitton, Mr. Williams developed a line of sunglasses. Alongside Louis Vuitton’s then-jewelry consultant Camille Miceli, he also created jewellery for the brand in 2008.
At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh forged a successful streetwear career and attracted a wide customer base. Given the brand’s standing as a Cultural Maison, it is almost a given that Mr. Williams will pursue this road.
In Asia, where LVMH has more than 1,800 locations, compared to just over 1,000 in the United States and 1,100 in Europe, Louis Vuitton is eager to draw in the next generation of luxury consumers. According to estimates from Bain & Company, Asians will make up more than half of the world’s market for luxury goods by 2025, up from 43% in 2019. This supports LVMH’s business model, according to which each area accounts for the majority of its revenues.
The Washington Post highlighted that LVMH has had mixed results when pursuing celebrities. It was placed on hiatus after launching the Fenty fashion line with Rihanna since it did not succeed.
Even while Mr. Williams’ appointment is less daring than Virgil Abloh’s in terms of rewriting fashion history, he might nonetheless travel a similar course given his cultural agility. Abloh’s stay at Louis Vuitton was one in a million success stories. When it comes to collaborating with artists and the streetwear scene, Mr. Williams’ contact list will be helpful, and the next few years will be judged by his cachet and momentum. That will align with the plan of the new CEO Pietro Beccari, who is eager to steer Louis Vuitton’s next phase of expansion on a path that is already well-known.