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Aside from the now infamous Vivienne Westwood mountain hat he wore on the Grammys red carpet, there was another piece of clothing Pharrell Williams sported that made a pivotal statement that night: a custom leather version of Adidas’ classic Firebird jacket, made famous by Eighties b-boys.
The jacket, in red, foreshadowed what was to come.
This story first appeared in the March 27, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A performance on a German talk show, the Oscars stage and an Instagram photo later — all in Adidas — stirred speculation that Williams was a new collaborator with the brand. The speculation was correct: Williams today will reveal that he has been tapped as Adidas’ newest collaborator.
Following in the footsteps of Raf Simons, Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens, Williams will launch his new line of products for Adidas Originals later this summer. The Simons, Yamamoto and Owens collaborations continue, meanwhile.
“[It’s] an amazing opportunity to work with creative people who understand where I’m coming from and respect my taste while having access to great technology and an amazing brand history,” Williams told WWD in an exclusive interview.
The collection will be the latest in a string of fashion tie-ups for the 40-year-old producer, singer and fashion designer — who already is working with G-Star, Comme des Garçons on a fragrance line, Moncler on sunglasses and Uniqlo on a shirt collaboration. That is on top of his own collection, Billionaire Boys Club, and in the wake of past collaborations with brands such as Louis Vuitton.
Yet Williams insisted that he can juggle them all. “They all fall under different categories or businesses of mine so they are all different and don’t really interfere with each other,” he said. “I also have a different idea for each collaboration and I have a great team that can follow up. Uniqlo is something my friend Nigo brought to me and was a great fit for my ‘I am Other’ company. Comme des Garçons is a fragrance which we have actually been working on for two years. Moncler is also an ongoing relationship and G-Star is also a collaboration with Bionic Yarn which is awesome since we’re making incredible denim and products while also helping the environment.”
The Bionic Yarn that Williams spoke of is his own textile company, and the fabrics will be used in some of his upcoming products for Adidas. It will also mark the first time the German-based activewear company will partner with a designer who owns his own textile company. The textile initiative, which is with Parley for the Oceans, turns plastic debris from the oceans into yarn and fabric.
“Adidas is giving me a great opportunity to develop products which I love and will also be using Bionic Yarn and is more of a partnership than a collaboration as we look to work together for the next few years,” he said.
Though he was mum on details about what his collaboration would entail as well as its aesthetic, he mentioned it would cater to most Adidas fans.
“It’s my line so it comes from my heart and mind,” he said. “I’m taking this very seriously. [It’s for] basically everyone. [I’m] not doing this for any specific demographic; I hate being put in a category anyway.”
Even though Adidas continues to work with well-known designers including Simons, Owens and Stella McCartney, Williams said that he did not feel a sense of pressure in his design process.
“I’m definitely not on the level of these people, who are real designers and do this as a profession. I’m more of a student,” he said. “Luckily over the years I have found great collaborators and business partners who have helped me share these ideas. I look forward to working with Dirk Schoenberger and his team at Adidas. Thus far they have made it really easy for me.”
Schoenberger, the global creative director at Adidas’ sport style division, was equally enthused: “[Williams] is a pop-culture icon that never fails to inspire, not just through his musical talent and craft, but through his many other interests. He is the perfect fit for the multifaceted company that is Adidas,” he said.
But with so many hands in various apparel collaborations, Williams insisted he will still have time for music, and will be continuing to promote his latest album, “Girl,” and his number-one single “Happy” (which spawned a collaboration of its own with the T-shirt line Peace Love World).
“I’ve had my own brand for 10 years now [Billionaire Boys Club] and had a deal with another company in the past so it will not affect anything, especially since I have the right team around me to help manage these projects,” he said. “Music will always be my first love and what I focus on, but I’m really appreciative to Adidas for allowing me to further develop and understand my design dreams.”
Still, with so many accomplishments from Grammy-Award-winning producer, Oscar-nominated artist, designer and now husband, Williams said that this was only the beginning.
“I know my limits,” he said. “And I’m not anywhere near it.”