Pharrell Williams: The Titan From Virginia Beach

Pharrell explains his collection with Tiffany & Co. and touches on Poseidon and the city of love, Virginia
Published: 8 July 2024
Jacket, BED J.W. FORD. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold with diamonds, Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams ring in yellow gold with diamonds, and Tiffany Lock bangle in yellow gold with diamonds, TIFFANY & CO.

ESQUIRE: When I think about your collaboration with Tiffany & Co., the first thing that comes to mind is the heart-shaped sunglasses that Alexandre Arnault posted on Instagram. You revealed those sunglasses last June saying, “You would know that I’m engaged to Tiffany. This is just the start of the many things we’ll be doing together.”

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: Those sunglasses are special. Generally, jewellery and accessories are must-have items in my style. That’s why I really enjoyed the process of working on that project. Thanks to the love those sunglasses got, we were more excited to release Tiffany’s new Titan collection. I’m close friends with Alexandre Arnault. So, getting the opportunity to create the Titan collection with Tiffany was an honour, and I’m thankful for it. 

ESQ: What did you want to express with the designs at Tiffany, and was there anyone or any incident that inspired that?

PW: I’m very inspired by water. The design of this collection and the name “Titan” were inspired by Poseidon, who is the king of Atlantis (a fictional city under the sea) and the ruler of the sea. “Atlantis” is also the name of an area in Virginia Beach where I grew up. Also, titanium was named after “Titan”, and you can call it “titan” for short. It is also a name that emphasises our use of black titanium, which we used in this collection to physically embody the beauty of the colour black. 

ESQ: I think it was a great idea to pair yellow gold with black titanium, and it felt fresh to me. 

PW: [The reason for that was] because it is different from tradition, and something unheard of. We wanted to make something beautiful yet different at the same time with this collection.

Polo shirt and shorts, DIOR MEN. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in titanium and yellow gold with diamonds, TIFFANY & CO.. Sneakers, LOUIS VUITTON. Socks, stylist's own

ESQ: You’ve even mentioned that “jewellery is the punctuation mark of a person”.

PW: Jewellery makes a person. We even remember a person by their jewellery. I can never forget the ring that Slick Rick wore a long time ago. I remember trying to look for the same ring he wore. 

ESQ: There was a dinner party hosted in New York to mark the launch of Tiffany’s Titan collection. Please tell us more details about that party.

PW: I was really happy that my friends and family came and supported me. That was the first time I saw other people wearing pieces from this collection. I was able to give life to this collection while working very closely with Tiffany’s in-house design team, and it’s such an honour to lead Tiffany into a new generation. It was at the New York flagship store (which looks down into Central Park). Launching the collection there made it feel like everyone came back and got together in their hometown.

ESQ: There was a Tiffany Wonder party in Tokyo recently. 

PW: Firstly, I love Tokyo. It’s one of the cities I love, and the food is amazing. It was great to be able to celebrate 187 years of Tiffany in Tokyo.

ESQ: How would you describe the style of this collection in one word? And tell us why.

PW: People. That’s because everything I create is for the people. It doesn’t matter what your gender, race, ethnic group, or anything else are. I hope people of different classes can wear this collection.

ESQ: I recently checked out your collection “Son of a Pharaoh” which you put up for auction on the auction site JOOPITER, which was launched a few years ago. Everything was great, but the BBC Varsity Jacket was especially interesting. It was an item that expressed a politically correct message in a very cool way.

PW: I really love that jacket. Women are our future. I think it’s important to use one’s art or platform to spread love and talk about injustices. Ultimately, it’s because we are all people. I’ll also be launching a very interesting auction on JOOPITER this coming autumn during Frieze Seoul. I don’t want to say much about it now, but I’ll be revealing more details soon, so look out for it. 

ESQ: You’ve been active for over 30 years. How have you been able to stay on the front lines of trends for such a long time?

PW: That’s an interesting point. It’s because I’ve never put in much effort into trying to stay afloat of the trends. I just do what I think is right. I’m also lucky to have worked with interesting people from designers to artists, musicians, and all sorts of other geniuses. I’m learning from them every day.

Jacket, shirt, shorts and sneakers, LOUIS VUITTON. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold, TIFFANY &CO.

ESQ: I’m curious as to how you would differentiate something good from something bad.

PW: We can never know what is good, or what people can relate to. You just have to feel that it’s right. Whenever I’m creating something original, or whenever I’m pushing myself to do something that nobody else has done before, that’s when I create "something good". Nobody might like what I created, but we have to be prepared for that!

ESQ: Have you ever thought about how you make that distinction? For example, when I asked you earlier “What is good?”, you could either prioritise your personal preference when doing music or fashion, or you could consider the preference of the consumer. 

PW: I try to look through the consumer’s point of view as much as I can, because I’m also a consumer. I think about how I can make it practical, or how the final piece can improve my life or help me live a better life. That’s the criteria I use when making decisions. 

Jacket and shirt, LOUIS VUITTON. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold, TIFFANY & CO.

ESQ: What do you ultimately consider to be “good”?

PW: “Good” is such an interesting word. Why do we not say “great”? But at the same time, there isn’t a singular definition of “good”. Something might be “good” but might not change your life. Or “good” could be just a feeling. But if you don’t have true passion or sincerity, or if you’re trying hard to get “something good” without knowing why you’re doing it, then that attempt will fail. What sets you apart from others is what makes you special.

ESQ: What does creativity mean to a creative director?

PW: I have three roles. The first is to be a student, the second is to share the code, and most importantly, the third is to help others. Every season, we have to start from the beginning and expand the codes, which are the elegant tailoring, comfort, resortwear vibe, the basics, and of course the dandy. At the head of it, my role is to give energy (to the people I’m working with). But if I’m not able to create something charming, none of these have any meaning. I speak through my vision and through the amazing talents at our Maison.

ESQ: In a previous interview with Vogue, you described a creative director as a “love movement” and someone who “commands 2,500 soldiers”. I know that The Love Movement is also your favourite album by A Tribe Called Quest, but to be honest, I don’t understand that figure of speech.

PW: “Love Movement” or “LVers” for short was inspired by the slogan of my hometown Virginia, which goes “Virginia is for Lovers”. The work that our team at the Maison and I do is one part of the strong “LVers” community that we created, and at the same time it’s for the community. The reason I likened it to commanding solders, is because I lead 55 departments and 2,500 skilled artisans at our Maison. It means that my role in this place is to lead and direct. Our work has to be in harmony, and my role is to make sure everyone moves as one. And the basis of all our work is love.

Jacket and trousers, BED J.W. FORD. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold and diamonds, Tiffany Lock bangle in yellow gold with diamonds, Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams ring in yellow gold with diamonds, and Tiffany Lock ring in yellow gold, TIFFANY & CO.

ESQ: How did the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” come about?

PW: I think it started from an ad or a billboard inviting people to come to Virginia for their honeymoon. But the slogan is true. There are all types of love in Virginia. It’s full of communities and families everywhere. 

ESQ: Hearing that reminds me of the Princess Anne High School Varsity Jacket that you put up for auction. It’s clear that it’s an important piece that explains your identity.

PW: Princess Anne High School is the name of the high school I went to in Virginia Beach! I really love that place, and it’s a place that has a lot of good memories. Coming from Virginia is very important to me and to who I am now. Whenever I have the chance to show that Virginia holds a special place in my heart either by representing or mentioning the place, I’ll take it. Creating the Princess Anne High School jacket was a tribute to my hometown.

Cardigan and shorts, DIOR MEN. Tiffany Lock bangle in yellow gold with diamonds, Tiffany Lock ring in white gold with diamonds, Tiffany Lock ring in yellow gold, and Tiffany Lock ring in yellow gold with diamonds, TIFFANY & CO.

ESQ: For someone who has only lived in Korea, it’s hard to picture Virginia as clearly as I can picture New York or LA. What kind of place is it?

PW: It’s a really cool place, and it’s my pride. People might underrate us, but you cannot find the history or the culture we have in Virginia state anywhere else! I love being close to the water and get a lot of inspiration from water. Being close to the water helps me feel safe. 

ESQ: You really love Virginia. What about making Pharrell’s Virginia, just like Donald Glover’s Atlanta series?

PW: That’s an interesting thought. But I’m not sure if Virginians would want a show created about them. If you want to watch a cool programme about Virginia or want to hear about the lives of people in Virginia, there is a documentary series called Voices of Fire about Virginia’s choir group with the same name. It’s amazing how much talent they have. The choir is led by my uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams, who is an inspiration to many people, and you can catch it on Netflix. 

ESQ: As someone who loves honky-tonk, the Louis Vuitton Autumn/Winter 2024 show was very impressive. I’m curious about the reason why you interpreted Western American outfits in the collection. 

PW: I wanted to reference my personal journey from my hometown of Virginia to Paris. I also wanted to tell the story of Western America, which is also the origin of workwear. Workwear evolved from denim which the first cowboys wore. I wanted to tell the story about this inherent history and express the origin and evolution. The story is told as is in the code of this collection. I’m very proud of that collection. From the buckles to the engravings, we didn’t miss a single detail. Simply put, we elevated every element you can think of up a notch.

Suit, bag and shoes, LOUIS VUITTON. Tank top, stylist's own. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold with diamonds, Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold, and Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams ring in yellow gold with diamonds, TIFFANY & CO.

ESQ: Will you consider interpreting American kung fu culture from the '70s and '80s in future works? I think it would suit you well.

PW: Kung fu and martial arts in general are very interesting. It’s a sport that requires a lot of strength, agility and patience. It’s almost like dancing. This sport is a type of art. It’s something I could consider!

ESQ: What do you think is your greatest asset right now?

PW: I will forever be a student. I love learning from others, and I get inspired by others every day.

ESQ: It’s interesting that you said “student”. What kind of student are you?

PW: I’m a student who observes well and asks a lot of questions. I want to know what happened here and there. I’m curious about how something I’m seeing is being made and why it’s made. We need to keep having curiosity. It’s the best way to learn about ourselves and the world around us.

ESQ: Is there a personal treasure that you’ll never put up for auction no matter what?

PW: There are so many! You mentioned the Tiffany heart-shaped sunglasses at the beginning of this interview. I will never put that up for auction, because it marked the beginning of my beautiful relationship with Tiffany.

Jacket, LOUIS VUITTON. Tank top, stylist's own. Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold with diamonds, and Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold, TIFFANY & CO.

Photography: Hyea W. Kang
Fashion Editor: Yun Wonghee
Styling: Matthew Henson
Grooming: Johnny “Cake” Castellanos at H.Q.E
Tailor: Alice Chastel Mazin
Production: Bae Woori
Art Designer: Kim Daesup
Styling Assistant: Marine Gabaut

Translation: Astrid Ja’afarino
Animation: Joan Tai

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