Pharrell Williams: ‘lot of people died’ for black culture to triumph
As he prepared the biggest fashion show of the year in Paris, musician-turned-designer Pharrell Williams told AFP on Tuesday he was conscious of the traumatic history behind black culture’s recent ascent.
“We wish that our culture and our people didn’t have to suffer so hard in order to get us here,” said Williams, who was set to make his debut as menswear director for Louis Vuitton later on Tuesday.
“It’s not lost on me that a lot of people died, a lot of people lost their lives and suffered… to get us to these positions.”
Williams is the second successive black American to take over menswear for Louis Vuitton, the world’s most lucrative luxury brand — a sign of how hip-hop culture has come to dominate global fashion.
He spoke to AFP as the final preparations were being made for a celebrity-studded show on the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf.
“I think these corporations are waking up, slowly but surely, I think they’re understanding that we have flavour and that we have something really interesting to offer,” Williams said.
“Historically and factually, it’s been whitewashed (but) while that’s been tough on us historically, it’s kind of made it easy when it comes to taste because we bring such a striking juxtaposition.
“It’s striking when you see LeBron James wearing something, when you hear Jay-Z’s lyrics, when you see and hear Beyonce, the energy and voice.”
Williams, 50, also spoke about his predecessor Virgil Abloh, a former Kanye West sidekick who breathed new life into Louis Vuitton with his hip-hop-infused style, but died tragically young from cancer in 2021.
“I collaborated with him on a couple of things,” said Williams. “Spiritually, his energy is very much still here.”
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.