He describes himself as “an expressionist“. He’s the frontman of N*E*R*D, one half of The Neptunes, designs clothes for Billionaire Boys Club with Japanese design god Nigo, produces the occasional piece of furniture and on new album Nothing proves that he can still make music which makes you dance first and think second. Sitting in Shoreditch’s Present store surrounded by his new autumn/winter collection, Pharrell Williams – with the odd interjection from bandmate Shay – reveals his thoughts on style exclusively to GQ.com.
My style hero was Batman. Now it’s Tony Stark.
Sometimes what is bad taste now, three years later could be the most incredible thing ever. You just never know.
I like it when Prince William goes dandy. He’s got all the proper wardrobe when they do the hunting thing. They kill that! I was inspired by a lot of Purdey – the Space Beach Cape in the new BBC A/W collection was Purdey mixed with a bit of Malcolm McClaren.
How did I dress well on a budget? I dressed completely ridiculously. We had this habit of wearing two pairs of socks. One we would wear normally, the other we would pull right over the ball of your foot. It would make your shoe puffy, which would make your foot appear smaller. We were just weirdos, man. I don’t know what dimension that rolled out of.
Alber Elbaz is just a genius. He’ll be in a dinner jacket and he doesn’t care what time of day it is: I love that about him. He just marches to the beat of his own drum.
I love boat shoes, but I’ve got to let them go now. Don’t you think? Dr Martens are making a very interesting comeback. Good colours and a different silhouette. A lot of [high-end] shoes come across as “designer”. It’s anti-designer time.
If you look at Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, I’ve been inspired by archetypes. In the super hipster dance culture, there are things like these [picks up Ice Cream tracksuit trousers with popsicles on them]. Shay would never wear these – but they are so comfortable. I was making them so punks and hipsters could come and get some things too. Because we’re not a punk or hipster brand. We did a lot of hipster things, but we moved on.
Nike is still killing it. I don’t know what it is but there’s something about the futuristic sneaker shape that kills it. I saw this kid wearing [purple and pink woven] Nike shoes downstairs and I was like, “What the hell is this?” Those were cold.
Marc Jacobs is the godfather. In no specific order, there’s Karl [Lagerfeld], Junya Watanabe, Rei from Comme des Garçons and Tommy Hilfiger is creeping up too – he has a nice couture line. Let’s get Nigo in there as well! All of those guys are the kings of all kings. The fact I was able to meet those people and work with them was really cool.
Ralph Lauren Purple Label is incredible. That denim collection was crazy: they had overalls with a coal-mining type of look. I’m for sure going to Ralph’s restaurant in his Paris store.
Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons capture my imagination. Brian Donnelly [Kaws] is on the way. Lucien Pellat-Finet is a designer but he kills it.
I look at some clothes and say, “Never”. But then I wake up one day and I’m wearing jeans that are tight as fuck. I remember having that conversation five years ago and saying, “Not me.” Then two years years later all my jeans are super-slim. I felt crazy wearing bigger jeans. I give it two or three years but big jeans will come back. I don’t know about people starting to wear them lower though – when things come back they come in a different incarnation which isn’t the same cut.
I don’t know about style mistakes. I like the world. I like the fact that some people dress great, some people dress fucked up. Here’s how it works: everything everyone wore two or three years back are now no-nos. As the next year progresses, another year falls past. But you keep everything.
I love black tie. Getting dressed up, performing, wearing tuxes: I love that. When Shay cleans up, he’s a sharp guy. [At this point Shay interjects: “Unfortunately, I don’t. I went to the Met Ball in T-shirt and jeans.”]
Steve McQueen is still my all-time favourite. Him and [Robert] Redford in Gatsby.