You shouldn’t be surprised to see a sand castle on the beach. But if it’s 30-feet high and made up of 366 reimaginations of Malle-Haute trunks, it may turn some heads. This is what Louis Vuitton erected in Virginia Beach this weekend for Pharrell’s Something in the Water festival.
Pharrell was named men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton in February, hence the sand castle, and although his first collection doesn’t debut until June, we are already seeing glimpses of the direction he may be taking the brand during his tenure. Louis Vuitton also showed support of its newest men’s creative director by releasing a limited edition collection of Virginia-influenced T-shirts, a hoodie, and a Damier print denim jacket priced between $860 and $3,050. Each featured an LV logo placed in the state’s travel slogan “Virginia is for Lovers.” Although the French fashion house is tied to the creator of this festival, seeing Louis Vuitton with such a notable presence in Virginia Beach was still unexpected.
“It was important to them. They pushed. They wanted to be here,” Pharrell told Complex while sitting outside of his trailer in the artist compound situated a few blocks away from the hubbub of the festival. His outfit consisted of a brown LV monogram leather Perfecto jacket layered with a white T-shirt, black leather pants, and a pair of chunky white LV Trainer Snow Boots. Various gold chains hung from his neck and teardrop-shaped sunglasses from his yet-to-be-released collaboration with Tiffany and Co. covered his eyes. “When I was on that mixtape, the In My Mind: The Prequel, and I said, ‘I just renegotiated my contract with LV.’ That was like ‘05 or ‘06. I had already met Marc [Jacobs] in like ‘03 and I think the sunglasses came out in ‘04. I’ve been working with them for like 20 years, bro. I think they understand that they are a part of my history and I’m a part of theirs.”
Pharrell spent the weekend adding to that history with the aforementioned Perfecto jacket he’s been wearing for the past couple weeks along with a new white and lime green moto jacket covered in crystallized logos, which he wore on stage Saturday night for his headlining set. Both are custom pieces officially designed by Pharrell, but they aren’t part of his debut collection. While Pharrell kept his details on the monogram jacket he was donning during our interview brief, he did give a small explanation to the “Pupil King” phrase spelled out in gold studs across the back of the jacket.
“I will forever be a student. I will always be a pupil. Pupil king,” says Pharrell.
Other highlights from the three-day weekend included an exclusive launch of Pharrell’s new Adidas Samba collab, standout sets from legends like Kid Cudi and Lil Wayne, and even surprise appearances from acts like Diddy and Chris Brown, who joined Pharrell on stage. Unfortunately, harsh weather hindered the three-day festival. Friday’s start time was pushed back from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. to combat heavy rain and they canceled Sunday’s shows entirely. Despite the setbacks, Pharrell celebrated the weekend and remained optimistic about next year’s Something in the Water.
“Even during this tornado watch and lightning storm right now as I type, we are the best. Thank you for giving the folks that travel here that energy and that love that only we can give,” Pharrell wrote on Instagram following Sunday’s cancellation. “Next year, more acts, more merch, more food…just more!”
On Saturday afternoon, we had a chance to sit down with Pharrell amid his busy weekend and ask him about that bespoke Louis Vuitton leather jacket he can’t seem to stop wearing, his new Adidas project, booking Something in the Water’s diverse lineup, and more.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
You have the festival, the music, the clothing, the Adidas sneakers, how do you personally manage all of that and continue to produce it all at a high level that is up to your standard?
A comprehensive team. All of these things are just ideas without a comprehensive team, without comprehensive partnerships, and without a really smart and loyal consumer base. So really, I’m like the smallest part of the equation.
That’s very humble of you.
I mean, show me the lie. I can’t do it all by myself. I don’t create these opportunities. My partnerships do. I can’t go buy it all. The consumers do. I’m really such a small part of all of this and I’m so humbled.
You were able to bring the festival back to Virginia Beach this year. On stage with Kid Cudi you at one point just yelled out, “I’m excited.” It seemed very genuine. So can you talk about how your feeling about the whole weekend?
If all of a sudden you could snap your fingers and this was all yours, how would you feel right now, in this instance?
I would be a bit overwhelmed, if I’m being honest with you.
Same [Laughs.] That’s my answer. That’s how I feel. I’m overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude and can’t believe it. God is the greatest, bro. God could have given this to anyone. I don’t know why me.
Can you speak on curating the festival lineup? I’ve never personally seen Mumford and Sons next to Polo G on a lineup. It spans all genres. What did you wanna accomplish with this weekend’s lineup?
We wanted it to be multi culti. I think the only way you do that is it has to be diverse. I want there to be something for everybody. Next year when we do it, the demographic is going to be even wider than what it is right now. We’re super gen Z, millennial. But you know, next year it’ll be like millennials, gen Zs, generation X, fucking boomers [Laughs.]. We want ‘em here. You know why? Because that’s what Virginia is. The state of Virginia is all different demographics. There needs to be something for everybody.
There’s the pyramid on the beach. There’s the special products. How important was it for you to have the Louis Vuitton to have a presence and bring those installations here to the festival?
I think there’s two answers to that. One, it’s incredibly important because it’s who I am and it’s my story. So that’s very important.
The other answer to this is it was important to them. They pushed. They wanted to be here. They know that they are a part of my story. They know that they are a part of my history. It’s been 20 years, man. When I was on that mixtape, the In My Mind: The Prequel, and I said, “I just renegotiated my contract with LV.” That was like ‘05 or ‘06. I had already met Marc [Jacobs] in like ‘03 and I think the sunglasses came out in ‘04. So you know, I’ve been working with them for like 20 years, bro. I think they understand that they are a part of my history and I’m a part of theirs. This is our history and you Something in the Water is Virginia’s history. It was important to them.
Can you talk to me about the jacket that you’re currently wearing? (ed. Note: Pharrell was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket covered in LV monogram print.)
I will forever be a student. I will always be a pupil. Pupil king. A student king.
You’ve been with Adidas almost 10 years now. Can you talk about executing the latest Samba project that debuted this weekend?
The Samba is a tried and proven silhouette. I just wanted to work on the craftsmanship and see where we could elevate it, look at specific details, and see where we could just push it forward. What the color does is just sort of highlight those things. You start to see those differences and those tweaks that we did, the kind of leather that we used. You really can appreciate those choices more when you put it in color. And then the leather laces is just like that extra umph.
I wanted to ask you about the colors you chose. It’s not just the yellow, it’s a very specific shade of yellow. It’s not just purple. It’s a very specific shade. When it comes to that part of the creation process, what did you want to say with these six colors?
They’re like Humanrace colors. They’re from our chosen color cards, what’s important to us, stuff that we’re going to share in different product lines, within skincare. So it’s just seeding the vibration of where we’re headed and what we’re up to through the colors. The colors actually really play a dual role in expressing where we’re headed in terms of our color cards for product lines, but at the same time they make it a whole lot easier for you to appreciate the different details like the stitching on the stripes, you know? That’s just different. You’re not gonna get that anywhere. But you wouldn’t have picked that up if it wasn’t tonal. And that’s why we gave the brown extra laces to just really make sure the color on the leather popped.