Know Your Sit: A Pharrell Chair Retrospective

Looking back at Pharrell's "Perspective" series.

If you needed any further proof of Pharrell’s prescience and lasting influence as a tastemaker in street culture, consider that more than a decade before our current obsession with designer furniture, Pharrell had already been there and done that—twice.

In October 2008, he debuted the “Perspective” chair, a collaboration with Domeau & Pérès, a Parisian studio and atelier. It was founded in 1996 by Bruno Domeau and Philippe Pérès, two graduates of France’s Les Compagnons du Devoir, a trade school that trains artisans in the crafts of saddlery, furniture making, and all sorts of fabrication. What gives it such a strong pedigree? Well, besides being in France…the institution dates back to the Middle Ages, so there’s a lot of provenance built in.

In addition to working with Pharrell, their client list includes a who’s who of companies and designers like Marc Newson, Karl Lagerfeld, Hermès, and Martin Szekely. They’ve even made an upscale foosball table out of calfskin leather, beech wood, and aluminum.

Pharrell described the chair’s design as an “homage to the Eames structure,” a nod to the obvious aesthetic similarities with the now-ubiquitous stacking shell chair. The metal legs were turned into a more literal, molded interpretation, depicting a man and woman’s legs mid-backshots, or as Pharrell more elegantly put it: a representation of “the love between a woman and a man.”

The chairs were made available at Paris’ Galerie Perrotin from October 2008 to January 2009, and produced in an edition of four in each color: red, black, turquoise, and yellow.

“I had often wondered what it’s like to truly be in love, not lust for once. So I decided not to ask what it was like in someone else’s shoes or what it was like to sit in their seat. I decided to sketch out my own experiment—the Perspective Chair,” he said to The Guardian.

But like many of Pharrell’s aphorisms, the intention behind naming it the “Perspective” chair was also to allow people another avenue of seeing the world in a similar way that he does. Having already done that through sneaker collaborations (literally letting other people in his shoes), approaching it from a sedentary vantage point seemed apropos.

It’s also telling that he had several versions of his chair on display at the Miami penthouse he used to own. Nowadays, celebrity homes full of KAWS works and Murakami flowers may seem trite, but the way in which Pharrell juxtaposed the two with Christian Liaigre furniture and other minimal design nods speaks to how he’s always lived with one foot in the present and one in the future.

It was an abode that was essential to his evolution as an aesthete and designer in his own right. Beyond the works he kept in the penthouse, Miami is also the city where he first met gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin, at the suggestion of their mutual friend, luxury jewelry executive Sabina Belli.

During a particularly dark period in Pharrell’s life, he found solace in the world of industrial design. He had just lost an aunt, and was processing the moment. When he met Perrotin, he suggested getting into furniture, something Pharrell hadn’t thought about before. So he seized the moment and ended up enjoying it. Just witness the childhood enthusiasm in the video above as he witnesses a figment of his imagination suddenly become a real life object.

“If we could have fabricators for everything that we think in our lives, do you understand how great life would be?” he muses.

Riding off that high of the initial Perspective chair, Pharrell and Perrotin partnered up again for the Tank Chair. This time, the Eames homage was propped up by treads on each side, meant to evoke images of war while simultaneously wanting to honor soldiers who enlist, and question the notions of what it means to put your life on the line for a country or cause you might not 100% believe in.

Pharrell described the study treads as representations of the strength and power of willing soldiers. It’s worth nothing that Pharrell’s Virginia Beach hometown also happens to be a hub of several military bases, and so its populace contains a significant portion of servicemembers. Perhaps that’s a contributing factor that kept this topic top of mind for him.

Among the texts on display at the initial exhibition was the poem by Pharrell building on the underlying war inspiration:

How does a young person decide to engage in a battle that does not seem to be hers/his?
I’m standing in the mirror...
Shadow boxing...
Kicking ass....
And I thought, how laughable the macho version of me...
Ha...
But could I be?
It takes guts and a reason... or is innate?
Is it simply in man’s nature to fight and show his colors of heart... the scars of experience?
Things he does not like...
So he...
Fights..
One man once said, »war is not the answer»...
But those of us born to this world, ambitious with the taste of change may not always
Understand the social methods of the same.
Instead, we seek and cure our curiosities with sharing our views by any means of a vessel; expression.
We believe Art is the alteration of existence and that which provokes thought.
So, in reference to Marvin Gaye’s brilliant question, I asked myself, «what was the question?»...
When my thought was met with a silence that was so thick it could be cut, it made me ask myself this.....
»Then what must it be like to be young and serve?»...»What if you couldn’t pay your tuition?»...
»What if it is simply family tradition?»..»What if you thought it was the right thing to do?»...
Wow, to sit in the seats of our youth (as well as others)... fighting for a series of reasons most of
Which can be argued and debated but being young and having your own reason?...
Whoa.
To wake up and make up your mind that you’ve found a reason to stand amongst the brave
Where loss at least on some levels are inevitable, even if it’s just time..
The only answer is that which is square.
«Intention» divided by «behavior» which is then divided by «reality» should equal to one’s truth.
Yes, our government, too, should exercise this regularly...
If we would spend «love» and «time» like we do «money», we’d never go broke...
But then again who am I trying to fool or what am I trying to fix?
I’m just a guy in the mirror trying to imagine what it must feel like to be young... headed into war...
I’m sorry, how rude of me...
I’ve left you standing...
I’m sorry, please do...
Have a seat.

Pharrell WILLIAMS