Before Tuesday night’s Louis Vuitton men’s show in Paris, if you had taken bets from the crowd on the night’s surprise musical performer, I’m not sure any of the 1,300 guests would have gotten the answer right. All week long, Pharrell Williams had been teasing cowboy themes on his semi-official Finsta, so there were hints about what was on his mind this season. Country music, perhaps? Close, but not quite. Few would have guessed that British trio Mumford & Sons would be laying down the rhythm at Pharrell’s third show for the French luxury flagship house.
Including the band themselves.
“Yeah, it’s a first,” Marcus Mumford told me. Mumford, the frontman who founded the band with a few mates back in 2007, was grinning from ear to ear on a shaky Zoom feed from a studio in Paris, where he and bandmates Ben Lovett and Ted Dwayne had just rehearsed the song “Good People” for the first time, which they wrote and recorded with Pharrell in studios in New York and Paris. “It turns out it’s fucking high,” Mumford said. “So I’m having to really stretch singing-wise. But, no, it’s going to be fun.”
“Good People,” featured in the show soundtrack and a live Mumford & Sons after-show performance, marks the first new music the singer-songwriters have released in five years. They didn’t plan for the occasion to be at their first Paris Fashion Week appearance ever, much less at the biggest show of the week or even in collaboration with Pharrell. But, as they discovered, collaborating with the producer and designer is to get picked up by a creative whirlwind that can touch down in unexpected places. “We have,” as Mumford said, “entered into the spontaneous world of Pharrell Williams.”
And now they’re part of an broader project that’s just now coming into focus, one where Pharrell is fusing his worlds of music and fashion in a novel and exciting way. Fashion show soundtracks are a funny thing. As Mark Ronson—who is sort of like the Pharrell of runway scores—told me last week in Milan, “When you do the music for shows, usually you put all this work into something that lives and dies on the day.” But Pharrell is using his runway shows to promote and drop new music, singles that are instantly played by the millions of people around who tune in to the productions. “Good People” follows the live debut of “Joy (Unspeakable),” a collaboration between the hitmaker and gospel choir Voices of Fire, at his first Paris show in June, and the release of the deeply catchy single “Airplane Tickets” with Swae Lee and Rauw Alejandro at his pre-fall 2024 show in Hong Kong in November.
If there was any question about whether Pharrell’s prolific music career would take a backseat in his LV era, it now looks like his new job has actually positioned him to create even more music than before.
Pharrell and Mumford & Sons first connected over a decade ago on the festival circuit. “There was just a lot of mutual respect and admiration,” recalls Mumford, who would go on to perform “Happy” with Pharrell at a benefit concert in 2017. “I’ve been on stage with a lot of charismatic performers, but he wipes the floor with any of them, man,” he said. As Mumford recalls, they began talking about working together from practically day one. “Trying to make an acoustic dance record together, or something.”
Reached via an interlocutor on the morning of the show, I asked Pharrell why he wanted to get in the studio with Mumford & Sons. (Recall that at the time the anthemic band was one of the most popular in the world, but known as folksy and intensely earnest and had a banjo player. So, not exactly cool by a standard Pharrell might use.) In a voice memo, Pharrell explained: “I always thought that their sound was an interesting one and the aesthetic was just as interesting. And I was very curious as to what it would be like to work with them, there was like a snowball effect of curiosity, and if I could even be of added value.”
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