“What about an audiobook?” Pharrell Williams asked, sitting at the head of a conference table at the Park Avenue South offices of Rizzoli as he looked at the nearly finished galleys for an October release called “Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been.”
Here was a lavish coffee-table book filled with images of the many products he has designed in collaboration with other artists and fashion designers, and interviews between Mr. Williams and the likes of Jay-Z, Anna Wintour and Zaha Hadid, which do not exactly lend themselves to the narrative treatment. But why not?
“It could be really interesting,” Mr. Williams said, “if I went out and hired Morgan Freeman or Danny Glover to read them.”
Or, as was pointed out by others in the room, it could be a little weird, if not uncool.
“An audiobook is not a good look,” said Loïc Villepontoux, sitting across the table. A calm, affable man, he is Mr. Williams’s longtime business associate, who oversees the licensing operations for his fashion labels.
“It’s like a lot of old women listening to the latest Richard Ford,” said Ian Luna, an editor of the book, looking a little nervous as he leafed through the galleys.
Helen Lasichanh, Mr. Williams’s fiancée, whose hair is dyed in chunks of pink, blond and brown like a block of Neapolitan ice cream, asked him smartly, “Have you ever bought an audiobook?”
“Let me ask you a question,” Mr. Williams said. “Has anyone of my persuasion ever done one? No. It could create a wave.”
They heard him out.
As he approaches 40, Mr. Williams, artist and superproducer, is having the opposite of a midlife career crisis. In addition to an ever-expanding roster of singers and songwriters with whom he collaborates (recent examples include Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean and Conor Maynard), his services are increasingly sought by corporations to remix their product designs. Since announcing in May that he is restructuring all of his creative endeavors under a single umbrella company, called I Am Other, Mr. Williams might as well have put out a “for hire” sign.
A luxury department store wants him to guest-curate its shoe department. Timberland wants him to make boots. A company in Pennsylvania wants him to promote boat covers using eco-friendly textiles produced by Bionic Yarn, yet another company in which he is a partner. He is pursuing deals, still in the exploratory stages, for dog leashes and maternity wear. He already makes bicycles with Brooklyn Machine Works that are almost entirely covered in leather.
And on Monday, Us Weekly reported that Mr. Williams is in talks to join “American Idol” as a judge. “It amazes me that he has all of these broad interests…
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