Pharrell’s Debut Collection for Louis Vuitton Spotlights the Art of Henry Taylor

Last Valentine’s Day, Louis Vuitton made a surprise announcement: rapper and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams would be taking on the role of men’s creative director for the storied fashion house. Yesterday, his debut collection, a collaboration with artist Henry Taylor, premiered in Paris.

Taylor is known for his prolific portraits, which adorn everything from plain cereal boxes and cigarette cartons to canvases that fetch the high end of six figures. He has painted the Obamas and people he has met on the street, and produces work at a restless pace. Taylor shot to prominence over the past decade, first represented by the notorious LA gallery Blum & Poe, then gaining additional representation by Hauser and Wirth in 2020.

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For Williams’s debut collection—which featured pixelated camouflage and other twists on the classic LV checker—was a series of suits embroidered with tiny replicas of Taylor’s portraits. Some of the suits were made of a flowing denim, with the jacket in the shape of an artist’s smock. The other suits were done in a red-carpet-ready black fabric with variations that included a matching waistcoat, a skirt, or a cardigan, all similarly embroidered.

Taylor himself was present in the show, not just watching the catwalk (which was no catwalk but Paris’s busy Pont Neuf bridge) but in a video projected over the show. In it, Taylor speaks with comedian Jerrod Carmichael along the banks of the Seine. Carmichael expresses some insecurities about his larger-than-life ambitions, to which Taylor responds, “actions speak louder than words!”

This is not the first time Taylor has worked with the brand, which is well known for its frequent collaborations with artists. In 2020 Taylor partnered with Louis Vuitton when he was tapped to contribute to the brand’s new line of “ArtyCapucines.” ArtyCapucines were an iteration of the structured bag that debuted 2013, with the brand bringing on six artists every year to create limited-edition Capucines with their unique mark. LV carefully printed one of Taylor’s portraits on the bags along with designs that featured or suggested the work of Beatriz Milhazes, Lui Wei, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Josh Smith, and Zhao Zhao.

The show was highly anticipated as it was not only Williams’s debut but the first time anyone had stepped up to replace the previous men’s director, the late Virgil Abloh. The visionary designer was behind the über-successful street wear brand Off-White; a creative director for Kanye’s fashion brand, Donda; and a generally beloved figure in the fashion scene. When Abloh died of cancer in 2021, the position was not filled, leaving Williams with the daunting task of filling the giant’s shoes.

Celebrities showed up in spades for this momentous unveiling, with true A-listers swathed in custom made designs from the collection, from a denim suit that opened over Rihanna’s baby bump to a typically clingy yet oddly athleisure sports-bra and legging combo for Kim Kardashian.

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