Pharrell Williams’ sneaker collaboration with Adidas Originals HU NMD and Chanel launched today at the Paris boutique Colette. To celebrate, the luxury French house founded by Gabrielle Chanel threw a party attended by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Justin Timberlake. Indeed Williams has collaborated with Timberlake for his upcoming album. The sneakers, 500 of which have been made and which 120,000 hopefuls pre-registered on the Colette website to be in with a chance of buying, are retailing for almost $1200. Williams, however, speculated that the might fetch up to $40,000 on the resale market.
Earlier in the afternoon, Williams took part in a podcast at the boutique and Footwear News caught up with him afterward to discuss the collaboration in greater depth. Here are 13 of the most illuminating takeaways from the day’s experience.
1. His relationship with Chanel began in an unexpected way.
“I used to listen to Notorious B.I.G. back in the day and he used to talk about bags by Chanel.”
2. Williams began wearing the label long before the unisex trend took shape.
“One day I had the audacity to buy a belt even though I knew it was a woman’s brand and other things that would fit me, like a couple of sweaters that felt like they were unisex.”
3. He’s also been customizing his sneakers since forever.
“I started writing the CCs on some of my sneakers and the rest is history.” He customized his own Chanel collaboration pair with slogans such as “Women’s Rights” on the back and “God Is The Greatest,” “Love Your Enemy” and “Others First” on the sides of the soles.
4. Williams does not consider himself a style beacon.
“I’m definitely not a style icon. I’m learning all the time and I pride myself on doing collaborations with people I can learn from.”
5. He was initially worried that Chanel might say no when he proposed the collaboration.
“I couldn’t believe it [when they said ‘yes’] and I still can’t believe I’m here. It’s been never done in the history of the brand.”
6. Yes, some people do actually say no to Pharrell Williams.
“My wife tells me no all the time.”
7. Those sneakers could have looked very different.
“We picked five different designs and these were the ones that Karl liked,” he said of the collaboration sneakers he sported. “They say Chanel on one foot and Pharrell on the other. There were some that just said Chanel or Gabrielle. There were different combinations. It’s another level to have my name alongside Chanel. That’s what I was really honored by.”
8. Like many artists, Williams has synaesthesia, meaning he perceives music as colors.
“It’s because [the artists’] minds are wired to perceive things metaphorically: If they hear something, they see a color. That’s an instant metaphor.” Indeed color plays a major role in his life, not least his hair. While he’s now sporting an orange dye job, “two years ago I dyed my hair green and that was the tipping point when I decided to do another album with N.E.R.D. I’m like a method actor.”
9. So what color is his “Lemon” track with Rihanna?
Yellow of course. And as for that eagerly anticipated, upcoming N.E.R.D. album, it involves “a lot of colors like crazy graffiti.”
10. Williams doesn’t like interviews.
“Talking about your art form too much drives out the lucidity and the vividness of it. So if it was a painting, by the time you’re done doing the interview the painting will have faded a bit.”
11. Women have taught him everything he knows.
“From my mom women I dated from fashion, taste, how to take care of my face how to see deeper into things and not just be hooked on aesthetics that’s how a woman’s mind works. They don’t just stare at the painting, they figure out what it means.”
12. And as evidenced by the messages he wrote on the back of his shoes, he strongly believes in women’s rights.
“You guys deserve to get paid as much as we do. We owe the female species.”
13. Any more collaborations with Chanel in the pipeline?
“I think that’s up to them. I’d love to.”