The scene at The Lot studios in West Hollywood, CA is rather subdued as adidas employees put the finishing touches on the party space to celebrate the launch of the second drop of their Pink Beach collection with Pharrell Williams. Glassware is polished. Burly security guards are jokingly thanked for being so big so that their hulking frames can hide tiny aesthetic faults on the periphery that can only be noticed by someone who knows that they are there. Some people even have booties over their shoes so as not to track in any dirt on the white floor.
The entire scene is set off by a radiating, pink glow and thick, puffy clouds overhead. It feels like you’ve stepped onto the set of a Sin City sequel and producers are still trying to decide what needs to be real, and what will be filled in later with after effects.
In a few hours, casting would be completed with appearances by the likes of A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, DJ Khaled and Tyler, The Creator.
Pharrell Williams steps out of a black SUV around 8:30 PM and takes a moment to bask in the atmosphere before he is ushered to a faux-beach area where white chairs and a beach ball sit below a neon Trefoil logo.
He’s dressed in a blue cap and navy hoodie from Cactus Plant Flea Market and a pair of the slip-ons from the collection which are already sold out worldwide. Williams jokes with members of the adidas team and is playful as he commandeers one of their cellphones to make the inaugural post on adidas’ Snapchat channel. Unlike other major celebrities, his team of handlers aren’t glued to his hip. He’s effortlessly cool and he’s careful with the words that he chooses; a publicist’s dream.
The seeds for the collaboration between adidas and Williams were laid in 2014 when the German brand sent him leather versions of its classic Firebird jacket and the creative doodled on the fabric. Impressed with his reimagining of the styles, they gave him creative control to forge a path where his aesthetics could not only reinterpret leisure attire, but also gave him the ability to make broader statements about inclusiveness in the fashion industry.
Pink Beach is vibrant and fun. But there are also deeper meanings that Williams is impassioned to speak about which solidify the notion that the accompanying words on the collection like “awaken” were not used as mere decoration.
How would you describe your design style and aesthetics?
I try to remain porous and curious. Porous so that something can come in. Curious so that I can find things out. Porous so I can actually get to them.
Do you see any similarities between releasing a collection and releasing an album? Are there any of the same anxieties?
Yeah, it’s all creativity. It’s all content, consumed one way or another. I’m just grateful to be able to express myself through this discipline as well as the others.
Four out of the top 10 sneakers on the resale market during the first quarter were adidas. How do you think that speaks to the brand’s growth?
It’s definitely an indicator. I think as a brand we are focused on just continuing to ideate and do things that push culture.
One of your adidas peers, Kanye West, came to the brand because of the creative freedom he wasn’t afforded at Nike. Has there been anything that you have envisioned that adidas hasn’t been able to execute?
We’ve had a really wonderful relationship. We push each other. We learn from each other. And we benefit from the service to push and advance the culture forward in whatever ways we can. We try to communicate that through our campaigns and the actual product and through the kind of messages that we put out. That’s our main focus.
I read somewhere about a carbon-fiber fedora. Any truth to that?
They just made one for me. Everything doesn’t always go to production. Which is cool, because you need to test things out and experiment.
Is there a piece you had from adidas as a kid that you are still nostalgic about?
Nothing comes to mind right now. I love the things of the past. But that which has not manifested yet is very interesting, too. One the other side of now. The future. 10 minutes from now or 20 minutes from now or an hour. The concept of that is just so interesting to me. And relating back to Pink Beach, that’s the higher frequency and that place inside of everyone that has no beginning or ending. It’s just there. That’s what this was kind of about and that’s what excites me a lot. It’s the things that don’t exist.
What’s to come…
Yeah, that’s what is interesting to me.
There’s been a rise in the popularity of the pop-up shop. You have one, and a lot of other prominent artists are starting to do it. What about that process of building up a physical space appeals to you?
I think what is exciting about it mostly is the idea that you can reach out to your fans directly and tell them, “this is the spot. This is our offering. This is what we’re working on. Come be a part of this.” It’s not just the sales, it’s the interaction. It’s the notion that a creator conspires with people to produce something and share it with their direct audience and they all have this one experience of it coming out of nowhere. The brand is ramping it up to get it done for that day. The audience hears about it and is super excited and has less than 24-hours to meet at that place. That’s great. That’s art in itself. It’s experiential.
The Pink Beach lookbook prominently features models of color. Was that a deliberate choice?
It was very important to me. If you look at the logo I have with adidas, the logo is two yellow lines. It’s for equality and those yellow lines are like street lines because we have a long way to go. So for me, I just want to continue to do things like this because it’s what is right. And the crazy thing is, it’s probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The way that the clothes are on them. The way that they look in that world, it just communicates something so beautiful and so human. That’s our main, number one focus is just to “go human.” They are a beautiful people and I think they shined more than anything. They shined more more than the clothes and I think it’s because they sort of represent the intention. They represent equality realized in one particular campaign. But there is so much more work to do. People can follow suit, and whether they do or they don’t, that’s on them. What our intention is and what we’re doing together is we want to raise the frequency and we want to lift people every chance we get.
- Photography: Silas Lee / Highsnobiety.com