THE PHARRELL EFFECT
Updated: May 6, 2020
During Paris Fashion Week, the French ministry of culture decorated Pharrell Williams with the Legion of Honor (Legion d'Honneur for you Francophiles), for his contribution in music and art.
"Ok, stop it right there, what?" was my reaction. The National Order of the Legion of Honor (Ordre National de La Légion d'Honneur) is the highest order for military and civil merit established by Napoleon Bonaparte himself. So it's kind of a big deal to receive that. It may be awarded to a person of a non-French national who has done a service to France or has significant accomplishments in France. Other non-French artists who have been awarded in the past including J.K Rowling, Marlene Dietrich, Salma Hayek, and Barbra Streisand.
I can't help but thinking that the only thing i know about Pharrell Williams' 'contribution' to the French Republic was by wearing Chanel wherever he goes. So that's it? Legion d'Honneur in the pocket?
Well, I still don't get the answer but as i dig deeper, it might have something to do with his involvement with French fashion.
Pharrell Williams is very talented, no doubt about that. He sings, he raps, he produces, and he acts. He received 10 Grammy Awards throughout his career and 2 Academy Awards nominations. Not to mention his song Happy was a huge international hit and has become a feel-good anthem.
Like many American artists, he ventured into fashion with his own brand The Billionaire Boys Club and collaborated with Dutch denim company G- Star Raw. His most notable collaboration, however, is with the French luxury fashion house Chanel.
Chanel and Pharrell might not seem like a usual pairing at first. Chanel, known for its heritage and feminist history of "liberating women", is also known to be a traditional womens fashion house. Chanel today is modern, but traditional.
So why Pharrell? Well, he does have his own sense of style. His look has evolved from being the boy next skating park to king of the sartorial cool. There have been PLENTY of articles on the net showing his style evolution which you can see for yourself. But I would like to highlight some of the iconic looks that caught the fashion world's attention.
Who can forgot that Vivienna Westwood hat that he wore on the Grammy Awards 2014? (image bottom right). He gave the British designer's brand the most publicity she'd had in years. The image went viral and even has its own Twitter account. The hat ended up being auctioned off for more than $10,000 for a charity. Good for him!
Since then, he moved on to being the ultimate male muse of the Chanel house. He even wrote and composed a song that he performed with model Cara Delavigne for the house's Métiers d'Art 2014 collection that carried an Austrian theme (Paris-Salzburg), and starred in its short film.
["Reincarnation" film by Karl Lagerfeld feat. Pharrell, Cara Delavigne and Geraldine Chaplin / YouTube]
Two years later, Pharrell walked in the house's Métiers d'Art 2016 show that was held at The Ritz hotel. He was wearing a long tweed coat, a signature piece of the house. They even styled him with pearl necklaces, a style hommage to the house's legendary founder; the late Coco Chanel.
Later on, he is seen wearing tweed jackets on various occasions. It is a bold fashion move as the tweed jacket does have an association as the 'lady' jacket. Not only it is extra feminine, it is also considered as somewhat 'old'. He even wore some of the pieces from the women's resort collection and frankly, he fucking rocked it.
I must admit that these look kind of worked on him. I don't know, i guess it is the Pharrell effect.
[Pharrell Williams wearing Chanel on a red carpet event, on the Chanel runway, and on the 89th Academy Awards. Bottom photos: more and more Chanel!]
Looks like their relationship isn't going to be over really soon. Chanel will reportedly continue to collaborate with Pharrell. He will appear in their newest campaign for their new it-bag Gabrielle.
As a 108 years old fashion house, I totally get it that the house of Chanel has the need to evolve and also tap a younger market that continues to grow in the global luxury sector. So what do they do? They tap Pharrell to make Chanel cool again.
Pharrell does have significant accomplishments in the arts Internationally and in France. The French minister also thanked Pharrell for 'being a friend the people of France during their darkest times', refferencing to his hommage to the Nice attack victims, by asking his attendees to sing La Marseillaise at his performance in a music festival in Brittany, France, just one day after the attack.
A cross-over from musicians to fashion icon is not a surprising thing. We have seen that alot in the hiphop and pop industry. But what makes Pharrell stand out, to me, is how he tweaked fashion items and owning it. His style transcends all genres, from hip-hop to bubble-gum pop, making people who look up to how these stars dress, can admire his style.
As far as fashion goes, today there are no more taboo to dress for both sexes, so for him to dress in clothes that are supposed to be made for women, no longer shocks anyone. To me it is quite refreshing seeing someone who LOOK like him rocking a Chanel outfit. He looks like a normal dude that i would bump into in a supermarket, not an out-of-this-world male beauty like Baptiste Giabiconi, which makes Pharrell much more relatable to me.
Through this particular strength, he was chosen as a male muse for France's legendary fashion powerhouse. At the end of the day, Chanel is essentially French and represents a French heritage. In a way, his involvement with Chanel means that he champions French heritage in the global entertainment industry. Something that the i'm sure the French ministry of culture just looooooves to see.
Félicitations Pharrell! Continue making me jealous by rocking that Chanel jacket!