PHARRELL WILLIAMS is a particularly quotable person. But among the visionary recording artist, producer, songwriter, philanthropist, fashion designer and entrepreneur’s most pearly phrases is something he said recently, as he prepared to launch his first full jewellery collection with iconic New York jeweller Tiffany & Co.: “Jewellery is the punctuation mark of a person”.

It’s poignant observations like this that not only make Williams the prolific creator he is, but also the ideal collaborator for such a luxurious collection of bling. Like everything he touches, Tiffany Titan hasn’t been crafted without deep thought and reflection. The collection is inspired by Poseidon’s trident, but not only in a conceptual sense — the striking shape has been factored into necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, its sharp edges offset by softly curved links and glinting diamonds. Then there’s the use of black titanium, an unconventional material for such a legacy jewellery brand. But of course, there’s a moving justification. “it’s a physical manifestation of beauty in blackness,” explains the polymath. A powerful punctuation mark indeed. 

He’s one of the busiest me on the planet, but recently, Williams found time to sit down with Esquire to chat about his collaboration with Tiffany & Co., and how everything he does — from his work as the creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear, his music production, advocacy work and film scoring to his entrepreneurial endeavours as the founder and CEO of Humanrace (to name a select few of his professional outputs) leads back to the place he owes a great deal of himself and his open-mindedness to: Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Pharell Williams Esquire
Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in titanium and yellow gold with round brilliant diamonds; Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams ring in titanium and yellow gold with diamond; Tiffany & Co. Lock ring in yellow gold; knit top, pants and shoes, all by Loewe.

Esquire: When we think about your collaboration with Tiffany & Co., the first thing that comes to mind is those heart-shaped sunglasses. When you first revealed those sunglasses last June, you said, “you know, Tiffany and I are engaged. It’s the first of many things I’m going to do with Tiffany.”

Pharrell: Those sunglasses are special to me. Jewellery and accessories have always been an integral part of my style so this is an exciting new collaboration for me that has been in the works since that moment. Because of all the love that we received with the sunglasses, it got me even more excited to launch this new ‘Titan’ collection into the world. [Executive VP of Product and Communications at Tiffany & Co.] Alexandre Arnault is a great friend of mine and I’m truly honoured to have the opportunity to create the Titan collection with Tiffany.

Where did your inspiration for Tiffany Titan come from?

I’m very inspired by the water, and the name of this collection, ‘Titan’ draws inspiration from Poseidon, ruler of the sea, King of Atlantis. ‘Atlantis’ is also the name of the community I grew up in, in Virginia Beach. The detail in all of the jewellery pieces is very intentional; the name ‘Titan’ comes from the use of black titanium . . . it’s a physical manifestation of beauty in blackness. 

We thought it was such a genius idea to bring the yellow gold and black titanium together for a striking contrast. How did this come to fruition?

I wanted to create something beautiful and different and did so through defying the conventions of traditional jewellery design.

What do you mean by “jewellery is the punctuation mark of a person?” 

Jewellery is the finishing touch to a person. It can become that one thing we remember about someone. I still remember this ring that Slick Rick had back in the day, and I’ll never forget it. I remember trying to find something just like it.

Pharrell Williams Esquire
Tiffany & Co. Lock bangle in yellow gold in full pavé diamonds; Tiffany & Co. Lock ring in white gold with pavé diamonds; Tiffany & Co. Lock ring in yellow gold; Tiffany & Co. Lock ring in yellow gold with pavé diamonds; cardigan and leopard shorts by Dior Men.

There was a dinner party held in New York to celebrate the launch of your Tiffany Titans collection. How was it? 

Pharrell: It was an amazing night with friends and family coming to support the launch. It was the first time I got to see the pieces on those closest to me. Working closely with the in-house design team to bring this collection to life and delving into a new era with Tiffany & Co. has been an honour. The dinner was held at the New York flagship store looking down on Central Park. Celebrating the launch at the flagship store in New York felt like everyone coming back to a hometown gathering.

What word would you use to describe your collaboration with Tiffany & Co.?

People. I say this because everything I create is for people. Regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or whatever differences, I want to see people from all walks of life wearing these pieces from the collection.

We recently came across pieces from your Billionaire Boys Club collection Son of a Pharaoh’, which were posted on your auction site ‘JOOPITER.’ The items in the collection are amazing but the BBC Varsity Jacket was definitely a stand out, with words like ‘Feminism’ written across the sleeves. Why was that one important to you? 

I really love that jacket. Women are our future. I think it’s important to use your creativity or whatever platform, to spread love and to speak out on injustices. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and in it together. JOOPITER has another exciting auction coming this autumn at the new international art fair, Frieze Seoul. I don’t want to give too much away right now but stay tuned for more details to come.

It’s been over 30 years since you burst onto the scene. How have you maintained being at the forefront with trends across music, culture and fashion?

It’s funny because I don’t think I’ve ever tried to be at the forefront of trends. I just do what feels right. I’ve been blessed to work with incredible people around me — designers, artists, musicians — geniuses whom I learn from every day.

Pharrell Williams Esquire
Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams medium link Station necklace in yellow gold; jacket and shirt by Louis Vuitton.

How do you distinguish between what is ‘good’ and what isn’t?

I will never know if something is good, or if something will resonate with people. I just have to do what feels right. When we create things with originality or push ourselves to do things no one has done before, that’s what can make something ‘good.’ And not everyone will love it, but you also have to be ready for that. ‘Good’ is such an interesting word. Why not ‘great’? But also, there’s not one way to see and define ‘good’. Something can be ‘good’ but it might not be life changing. Or ‘good’ could merely be a feeling. But if all you strive to be is ‘good’ without any real ambition, authenticity, or without defining the why behind something, it’s going to fall flat. The thing that is different and unique about you is what makes you special.

How do you decide between being driven by your own style, or by what others might desire? 

I try to look at things from the eye of the consumer because I am also a consumer. I am always thinking about what’s practical, or how a product may enhance my day to day life or make it better. They are my deciding factors. 

In your opinion, what is the key to creativity?

My job is three-fold: firstly, to always be open minded; secondly, to share and promote our principles; lastly and most importantly, to be of service to the people. With each season we continue to expand on our principles we established from day one – immaculate tailoring, comfortability, resort-type wear, basic, and of course the ‘Dandy’ code. It’s my job to lead by example, and to bring the energy [to the people I work with]. Although, none of this matters if whatever you’re creating isn’t striking. I speak on behalf of myself and for the incredible artisans we have here at the maison. 

In a recent interview, you said your role as a creative director is like a “Love Movement”, but also like “conducting 2500 soldiers”. I know that The Love Movement is an album by one of your favourite groups, A Tribe Called Quest. Can you explain what this means?

The ‘Love Movement’ or ‘LVers’ is inspired by the original ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ saying that comes from Virginia, where I’m from. Everything my team and I do here at the maison is part of and for this robust community of ‘LVers’ that we’ve built. When I refer to the idea of conducting soldiers, it’s about overseeing 55 different departments and 2,500 peaceful soldiers. It’s my job to make sure that everything is in harmony and to weed out any dissonance. It is all ultimately built on love.

Pharrell Williams Esquire
Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams clasp necklace in yellow gold with pavé diamonds; Tiffany & Co. Lock bangle in yellow gold with full pavé round brilliant diamonds; Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams five-row ring in gold and diamonds; Tiffany & Co. lock ring in yellow gold. Jacket and pants by BED j.w. FORD.

Where does the slogan ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ come from? 

You know, I think it actually started from an ad or a billboard I saw promoting Virginia as a honeymoon destination, and then I guess it took off from there. But it’s true. There is so much love in Virginia, the community and families are filled with it.

Having never lived there, we don’t have a clear picture of what Virginia is like. How would you describe it? 

Virginia is truly amazing; it’s a place that I’m proud of. People underestimate us, but the history of the state and the culture that we have there – you can’t find that anywhere else. I also love being by the water, I’m very inspired by it. Being close to the water helps me feel at home.

If you really want to see something amazing or get a glimpse into the life of some amazing Virginians, there is an incredible musical documentary series based on the Virginia choir Voices of Fire on Netflix. The choir is led by my extremely talented uncle, Bishop Ezekiel Williams who strives to build the world’s most inspiring gospel choir.

What is the one treasure of yours that you could never part with?

There are a lot of things but as you mentioned the Tiffany & Co. heart-shaped sunglasses earlier in our interview, I could never put those up for sale. Those glasses marked the beginning of my beautiful relationship [with the brand].

What do you think is the most valuable asset you have and why?

I’m forever a student and I love learning from others. I am constantly inspired by the people around me.

It is interesting that you refer to yourself as a ‘student’. What type of student would you describe yourself as?

I’m observant and I am the type of student that asks insightful questions. I’m always wanting to know what’s happening in the world. I like to know the ins and outs of how something is created and the reasoning behind it. We have to stay curious. It’s the best way to learn about ourselves and the world around us.

Pharrell Williams Esquire
Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold with pavé diamonds; Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams medium link Station necklace in yellow gold; jacket by Louis Vuitton.

In opening image, Pharrell wears: Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams necklace in yellow gold with pavé diamonds; Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams medium link Station necklace in yellow gold; Tiffany Titan by Pharrell Williams five-row ring; jacket, pants and bag by Louis Vuitton; sleeveless top, stylist’s own. 

Photographer: Hyea W. Kang
Fashion Editor: Yun Woonghee
Features Editor: Park Sehoi
Stylist: Matthew Henson
Grooming: Johnny ‘Cake’ Castellanos for H.Q.E
Tailoring: Alice Chastel Main
Styling Assistant: Marine Gabaut
Production: Bae Woori
Art Director: Kim Daesup

This story originally appeared in Esquire Korea. Introduction written by Amy Campbell.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below