PHOTO BY CRAIG MCDEAN
Pharrell Williams is the mad scientist of progressive urban pop. With his maverick production team The Neptunes, he's crafted hits for everyone from Kelis to Gwen Stefani, while in his own pioneering group, N.E.R.D., he alchemized rock and rap into an exciting new sci-fi-pop hybrid. Always keen on smart branding opportunities, Pharrell soon looked toward promoting a similar enterprising synergy in the fashion realm. He developed two streetwear lines—Ice Cream and Billionaire Boy's Club—which were notable for their exclusivity and high quality; unlike other hip-hop clothing brands, you couldn't procure Pharrell's pieces at your local Macy's. They were strictly limited to upscale Japanese boutiques, where they flew off the shelves.
Now, years later, Pharrell's interest in the advanced sensibilities of the Tokyo market tie in nicely with his newer collaborative endeavors. In 2008, he officially became an investor and brand ambassador for Bionic Yarn, the eco-textile brand that literally creates luxe high performance "smart fabrics" from with old plastic bottles. A master sampler and self-admitted science geek, Pharrell has high hopes for the possibilties of Bionic Yarn. For his new Moncler Fall 2010 capsule collection, he utilized his ultra-modern textile for a high-tech sportswear collection inspired by Japanese experimental art. As that lauded collection hits stores, he recently shared with Interview how it all came about.
COLLEEN NIKA: How did the Moncler x Bionic Yarn collaboration happen? How did you bring your own design ideal to the brand's noted high-tech sports aesthetic?
PHARRELL: I'd been talking with Moncler for a while about doing a collaboration project with them. When they found out about Bionic Yarn we both felt it was a perfect fit for the capsule collection I had in mind. We used a print by Keita Sugiura, a young Japanese artist who was discovered at an art show put on by Takashi Murakami. We wanted to create something new and interesting, and while going through our original samples with Moncler, decided to kick it up a notch by adding the "bullet proof" vest. Like Moncler, a lot of my creative projects are inspired and driven by technology and style. Incorporating Bionic Yarn into the collection I made with Moncler was natural.
NIKA: Why and when did you begin to engage with Bionic Yarn? What was the initial attraction for you?
PHARRELL: I met Tyson [Toussant], one of the founders of Return Textiles, creator of Bionic Yarn, through a friend—we were talking because I wanted to get involved in a "green" business, and then I saw the product. It was a done deal. The fabric feels fantastic!
NIKA: You have two other clothing lines—Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream—that are sold in limited quantities. How did what you set out to achieve with Bionic Yarn differ? Does any cross-branding occur?
PHARRELL: Yes, we are doing something with BBC and Bionic Yarn now, but I don't design Bionic Yarn–Bionic Yarn is a product developed, patented, and, owned by Return Textiles LLC, of which I'm a brand ambassador and investor/partner. Even though I don't design Bionic Yarn, I was thrilled when I was designing Moncler that they asked to use it.
NIKA: You've told Interview before that you love science. How did that evolve into an interest in so-called "smart fabrics"? What set Bionic Yarn apart from other similar materials?
PHARRELL: There are other fabrics made from recycled materials, but Bionic is actually durable and the feel is incredible. The fact that we make a desirable product out of plastic bottles which would other wise end up in landfills and oceans is just amazing.
NIKA: Were there any challenges in using Bionic Yarn for Moncler?
PHARRELL: No. They found out I had a part in this company and were thrilled to include it. Who wouldn't want to use a fabric that is durable, feels awesome, and helps the environment?
NIKA: What is the most ambitious dream project you'd like to see Bionic Yarn become involved with?
PHARRELL: Wow, the sky is the limit. Lab coats, denim, uniforms, scrubs, T-shirts, line of home products, toys. We want to be the material used to make every thing. My mission is to recycle as much plastic possible in my lifetime and beyond in the form of high quality products. My next venture should be a chain of second hand vintage stores to resell the Bionic Yarn products that outlive us. [Laughs].