For a music impresario to expand his purview beyond the recording industry is hardly a rarity these days (see Jay-Z, Diddy, and Russell Simmons). But Williams’s side projects have had a uniquely sophisticated spin from the start. In 2005, with Tomoaki “Nigo” Nagao—the Japanese record producer and designer of the street-wear label A Bathing Ape—he founded two fashion lines, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, which straddle the line between hipster and hip hop. That same year Williams’s fashion cred got a major boost when he and Tomoaki designed a sunglasses collection for Louis Vuitton. And in 2008 he returned to the venerable French luxury goods house to create Blason, a line of hefty, diamond-frosted jewelry with cherub, crown, and shield motifs. Today a dozen vintage Vuitton steamer trunks—some covered in stickers from customs inspectors, grand hotels, and defunct airlines—dot the apartment. “We’re family,” Williams says of the label. “They’re good to me; I’m good to them.”
His recent entrée into furniture design, meanwhile, came through another French connection: Parisian dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, whom he met four years ago at the now shuttered Miami outpost of Perrotin’s gallery. “I had an idea, and he thought it would be interesting to make it as a chair,” Williams says, recalling the genesis of his Perspective chair, models of which are displayed near the kitchen. The design is made up of an Eamesian, midcentury-style shell seat upholstered in leather and supported by resin legs that are, well, legs—the front pair are those of a woman poised on her toes; the rear are those of a man. Clearly, the two are enjoying each other’s company, to put it politely. “I wanted to offer a perspective on what love must feel like,” Williams explains. Perspective was followed by a second limited-edition design, Tank, which utilizes the same classic shell supported by stationary acrylic wheels that resemble the treads of a combat vehicle. After debuting at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2009, the chair was featured at the French boutique Colette in 2010 and then displayed at Perrotin’s Paris gallery.
During that same period, Williams was upping the ante on his artmaking aspirations by collaborating on a sculpture with Murakami, who, like KAWS, is represented by Perrotin in Paris. Called The Simple Things, the piece comprises seven of Williams’s favorite objects—a cupcake, a Trojan Magnum condom, a can of Pepsi, a bag of Doritos, a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Lotion, an Ice Cream sneaker, and a bottle of Heinz ketchup—all encrusted in diamonds and other gems and spilling from the mouth of Mr. DOB, Murakami’s magic mushroom monster character. According to Perrotin, the piece, which was unveiled at the original Swiss location of Art Basel in 2009, sold for $2 million to a pair of unnamed collectors. Before settling in with its owners, the sculpture migrated to Murakami’s blockbuster 2010 installation at Versailles.