By Ingrid Schmidt. Music mogul, fashion designer, television personality, philanthropist, father, husband: Pharrell Williams is a man who wears many hats. He’s also a man who wears many sneakers. As a collaborator with the Adidas Originals brand, Williams recently reinvented the classic Superstar sneaker with a collection of limited-edition designs created by him, artists Cass Bird, Todd James and Mr. and architect Zaha Hadid that debuted in late July.
To celebrate the new brand initiatives, he invited more than 200 high school students from the Los Angeles area to Milk Studios in Hollywood on Saturday night to create their own artistic designs for the Superstar sneaker’s shell toe. The evening included a private performance by Pusha T., and before going on stage, the duo sat down to discuss the Adidas projects and their personal styles.
How does it feel to be nominated by Pharrell as a ‘superstar’?
Pusha T: It feels awesome. It’s really dope to be working in a different capacity than music with Pharrell. It’s no stress. We’re helping people. We’re moving the needle forward. We hope to inspire the youth.
Williams: That’s what music should be like all the time. No stress, moving things forward, inspiring the youth, and doing it with style and vigor.
What are some characteristics shared by the five superstars you selected?
Williams: More than anything, I wanted to make sure that everybody was a pusher of difference. And they had to be able to do it in a communicative way, not esoterically. Because there are a lot of people who push things forward but [sometimes] only you and two people out of 500 in the room get it, but you want somebody who has mastered their craft so well that an 8-year-old gets it just like an 80-year-old gets it. They get the same visceral feeling.
What are you wearing?
Williams: These [Adidas sneakers] are the Supershell collaboration with Mr. of Kaika Kiki, [Taskahi Murakami’s art production company], Ralph Lauren [blue and yellow striped] ‘50s-like socks, fitted jeans with Adidas [custom patched logo] in the back, a Human Made T-shirt and blazer, Cartier sunglasses, an old Brixton cap, an Apple Watch, and the rings are Lorraine Schwartz.
Pusha T: Classic Adidas Superstars, a Bathing Ape tee, an Adidas jacket, Saint Laurent jeans, a Saint Laurent bandana and a [gold] Rolex.
Congratulations on winning this year’s CFDA Fashion Icon award. What would you say makes you a style superstar?
Williams: Thank you. I don’t know that that’s true. I know that I’m a student. I’m a people watcher.
Well, a lot of people watch you and what you’re wearing,
Williams: Right now I’m kind of in a “Cry-Baby” mode meets [Robert] De Niro in “Cape Fear.” [DeNiro famously dons a Hawaiian shirt in “Cape Fear,” while Johnny Depp’s signature as a ’50s bad boy in “Cry-Baby” was a leather biker jacket with cuffed jeans.]
How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
Williams: I don’t know. No idea. But it’s not like Sneakerheads-crazy. I’m not one of those guys. It’s not thousands.
Do you remember the first pair of Adidas sneakers you purchased?
Williams: The first pair of sneakers I ever purchased were Adidas. They were the Instincts, the low-top. I had the Lakers colorway. It was when I was in high school and had a job: I worked at McDonald’s and got fired.
Pusha T: Adidas were the first shoes I cried for. It was because my older brother got to have the Run DMC Adidas and the track suit and my parents didn’t see it necessary for me at my young age [in elementary school] to have them.