Willo Perron isn’t a musician, but he is a rock star in his own right. Responsible for producing visual dreamscapes for some of the biggest concerts on the planet, the creative director collaborates with celebrities who require only a single name: Jay, Drake, Kanye, Rihanna.
In 2017, the Montreal-born designer created the architecturally imposing set for Jay Z’s 4:44 tour, which won the rapper Best Rap Tour at the Billboard Music Awards 2018. And last year, for Drake’s “Aubrey & the Three Migos” tour, a foam replica of the singer’s yellow Ferrari, concealing a helium balloon fitted with tiny propellers, was flown over concert-goers as the Canadian rapper performed on a video-enabled surface that shifted from portraying hot lava fields, cracking ice floes, an Instagram feed, and a 75-foot scorpion. Pure Perron.
Willo Perron’s set design for Jay Z’s “4:44” tour
Beyond creating some of the most iconic stages in the music world, Perron has produced album covers for Florence and the Machine and St. Vincent, Bruno Mars and Kanye West; and interiors for retailers like Stussy, American Apparel and West’s fashion brand Yeezy, where, as he tells it, he combines an interest in immersive, meaningful experiences with a passion for accessible design.
“A retail space becomes entertainment, like theater,” Perron said in a phone interview. “For me it’s really about the confluence of things that becomes interesting.”
Willo Perron’s set design for Drake’s “Aubrey & The Three Migos” tour
Perron, who dropped out of his performing arts high school at 14, said he takes inspiration from the work of Joep Van Lieshout, a Dutch artist and polymath, “one of these characters who has kind of straddled architecture and art and furniture and has moved fluidly through all these mediums.” Perron plans to continue honing his own skills until he can claim the same. His career, he asserts, remains a work in progress: “It’s still pretty early on for me.”
Willo Perron’s interior design for Yeezy
This spirit of multidisciplinary experimentation has been at the heart of Perron’s work with West, who he first met in 2006.
“I think Kanye and I intersecting when we did, and … basking in our idiosyncrasies and this completely unconventional voice, when rap was really just urban and basketball jerseys with gold chains … we just kind of went on a journey.”
Es Devlin’s magical stage design
But despite the obsessive attention to detail that led to so many successful and eye-catching projects, Perron does not consider himself a perfectionist.
“The characters and flaws in people are the things that are attractive,” said Perron. “The gap tooth or the scar are the things that give you personality. Perfect beauty always seems like a little bit of a trick. Like, what’s the catch?”