Music and fashion are what Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams is best known for, but the entertainer has a passion he’s kept relatively quiet: Saving the environment.
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That mission will be made public today at a media event at 6 p.m. at the American Museum of Natural History, where Williams will unveil his newest fashion partnership, Raw for the Oceans, a long-term collaboration between denim brand G-Star Raw and Bionic Yarn.
The event will take place at the museum’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, where Williams will discuss his thoughts on the environment — specifically the ocean — and what is described as a creative exploration between G-Star and Bionic Yarn. The two companies have joined forces to create a denim collection made of plastic materials retrieved from the world’s oceans and shores and recycled. The collaboration is the result of the cooperation of Project Vortex, an initiative by sustainable platform Parley for the Oceans.
The line will be carried at select G-Star Raw stores worldwide and online beginning Aug. 15. In addition to the joined seasonal collections, G-Star will integrate Bionic Yarn material into existing product lines. Bionic Yarn, the first high-performance eco-thread, represents the fourth-generation yarn structure in the history of commercial textile production. Cofounded by Tyson Toussant and Tim Siris Coombs, Bionic Yarn specializes in premium yarns and fabrics made with fibers derived from recycled plastic bottles that have been discarded worldwide.
Speaking exclusively to WWD on the collaboration, Williams, who serves as creative director of Bionic Yarn, said, “Working with G-Star was an obvious choice, because they have a legacy of pushing the boundaries of fashion and denim forward. Bionic Yarn is a company built around performance, and denim is the perfect category to show the world what Bionic Yarn can do. Everyone has jeans in their closet.”
So what are Williams’ thoughts on saving the earth?
The producer, singer, designer and songwriter — whose work with Daft Punk and hit song “Get Lucky” won awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards — says he hopes the collaboration will bring greater awareness to a global problem.
“Listen, what I am not is a fanatic or a hard-core activist. I’m not the guy with the picket sign or the guy who lays down on tracks, but I commend them for their conviction….I have a lot to be thankful for, all of the supercool things that have happened in my life….We have to give back in some shape and form and that’s giving back to the earth. I’ve been lucky enough to be given this collaboration and my message to people is you don’t have to do anything. But if you don’t want to let it go, then what Bionic is doing with the oceans is right for you,” said Williams.
He noted, however, that people and governments around the world are slow to address environmental change.
“There just aren’t enough laws [to protect the oceans]. In America, we can’t judge any other country until our own policies change,” he insisted.
Fashion can be a universal player in protecting the planet, said Williams.
“Fashion is certainly a huge part of everybody’s lives. You wear it every day and for some people it’s a status symbol, or a statement of how much they have spent on clothes, or it’s a means of expressing their identity and who they are. We [Bionic Yarn and G-Star Raw] are trying to infiltrate the entire spectrum of fashion, high-end and low. It’s a part of sustainability and the cause is to never throw anything [plastics and trash] into the ocean again. The ocean is just one part of the earth we’re concentrating on, but the world is made up of 75 to 80 percent water. It’s a huge place to start,” said Williams.
Shifting gears to his personal style, Williams was asked if he took a lot of heat for the Dudley Do-Right-looking hat he wore at last month’s Grammys.
“Firstly, I don’t recall taking any heat….It’s a Vivienne Westwood hat. It’s not for everyone….It was an ode to ‘Buffalo Girls,’ Malcolm McLaren….It just felt right. I wore it on New Year’s Eve and when I bought it five years ago…everyone was wearing tuxedos….I was just being myself and minding my business….The [Grammys] night was a blur and the awards we received that night were overwhelming. I was told the site [Grammy.com] crashed that night because of that hat.”