Paris CNN: Pharrell Williams’ debut as Louis Vuitton’s men’s creative director was spectacular, heralding a new era for the storied French fashion house.
On Tuesday, the American polymath, whose appointment was announced in February, shut down the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. There, the show was held at sunset with a full orchestra, gospel choir, and over 70 looks modeled by well-known people like designer Stefano Pilati and hip-hop duo Clipse’s Pusha T and No Malice.
The famous people didn’t stop there; Williams’s friends from the famous people watched from the front row. Rihanna, the latest campaign model for the brand, A$AP Rocky, who sneaked in late, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Jared Leto, Lenny Kravitz, Naomi Campbell, and brand ambassador Zendaya, with former stylist Law Roach by her side, were among them.
The legitimacy of Williams’ appointment as the successor to the late Virgil Abloh and his unconventional course of action sparked some debate.
However, the 13-time Grammy winner has been influencing culture for over two decades, albeit without formal training in fashion design. Williams has tried his hand at design before: He made sunglasses in 2003 with Marc Jacobs, who was running Louis Vuitton at the time, and Japanese designer Nigo. These sunglasses went on to become one of the best-selling items for the brand. The subsequent partnerships included: Moynat, Moncler, and Adidas, as well as a capsule collection that he co-designed with Chanel’s late creative director Karl Lagerfeld.
He, like Abloh before him, has an uncanny ability to stay ahead of the cultural curve, reshape the zeitgeist, and comprehend how to popularize an idea. His vision for Louis Vuitton as creative director will extend beyond the creation of collections to the production of fashion shows, advertisements, and other content to maintain the fashion house’s freshness and buzz.
The PR team told us that guests met “in front of Rihanna,” referring to the brand’s huge billboard featuring the pregnant Barbadian singer. From there, they took a boat down the Seine River to the city’s oldest bridge, where the LVMH-owned Samaritaine is located. Pont Neuf was transformed into the Vuitton runway, and the collection heavily incorporated a continuous strip of the recognizable Damier motif.
Through Williams’ perspective, the 1889 checkerboard design has been reimagined. Overcoats with floor-sweeping sleeves, matching suits, a collarless tapestry jacket, structured trunks and cases, and oversized Speedy bags and backpacks all featured a pixelated version known as “Damoflage.” On quilted denim jackets, calf-grazing trench coats, leather moto jackets with flared pants, leather jerseys, and rugby shirts in brilliant yellow, deep navy, and burgundy, a more exaggerated version of the original Damier pattern was also displayed. It was also found on a number of other accessories, including baseball caps, bags, and beanies.
This season, embroidered designs from the works of American artist Henry Taylor were used on tailoring, denim, and accessories. Another new motif was a logo that combined the word “lovers” with the classic “LV” monogram. LVERS is a mental state: warmth, well-being, and feeling welcomed, according to the show notes.
Williams sent down elevated Varsity jackets with prints of Pont Neuf shimmering with crystal detailing and a navy one with the LVER logo splashed across the chest, channeling his own sartorial tropes. Also on display were black loafers, ruffled white tube socks, and tailored shorts with matching jackets that Williams has worn to red carpet events.
Accessories were given the same importance as clothing. The Speedy, which has been worn by everyone from Snoop Dogg to Audrey Hepburn, was one of the most well-known bags by the brand. Models carried it across the chest, in the crook of their arms, or under their clothes. It signals a new look for the famous piece.
In a press release released after the show, Pharrell stated, “The Speedy was always a men’s canvas bag until they made a smaller version for Audrey Hepburn in 1965.” I wanted to take something that I thought would be suitable for both sexes and would just be a great bag for humans. It was designed to be a universal symbol of everyday life.
In a nod to the fakes that are sold on Canal Street in New York City, the new version comes in vibrant new colorways like cherry red, sunshine yellow, and rich green. According to the show notes, “A new adaptation of the Louis Vuitton Speedy bag conjures the attitude and hustle mentality of Canal Street in an everyday icon designed for every walk of life.”
The new bags are made of calf leather rather than canvas and come in a variety of sizes, including larger versions that are softer. Small structured bags with chain and pearl detailing and camera bags with nylon straps were worn with furry trapper hats, rolled blankets that were tucked under the arm or draped over shoulders, and large bags that resembled the silhouettes of the brand’s Alma and Keepall.
From chunky beanies with crystals and pearls to structured leather logo berets and slouchy newsboy caps, there was a wide variety of headwear. Sunglasses, a signature of Williams, were also important. They came in a variety of sizes and shapes, from square camo frames with small circular frames that looked like camera lenses to wraparound styles with pearl-studded oval lenses.
The gospel choir from Voices of Fire sang, “Joy! ” at the show’s conclusion. Joy! Joy!” with a performance that not only brought them joy but also drew a standing ovation from the audience. Williams made two new pieces for the runway show including “Satisfaction (Unspeakable)” sung by the Virginia-based ensemble which was delivered five days prior, as well as “Harmony Stay composed” highlighting Chinese musician Lang.
Williams had paid tribute to “the giant before me,” the late artistic director Virgil Abloh, in his show notes.
“Virgil has always been a spirit brother. In a press release, he added, “Now, that is literally what we work with here.” The House received numerous hits from him. I’m working with his spirit to collaborate, in my opinion. I feel honored. I was beyond thrilled for him when he got the appointment. It was mind-boggling how many connections he had with us and how much respect he held for us. I can tell you that Virgil and I have to tell kids who look like us, “Oh, I can do anything,” because we are here. I’m able to be anything.
Williams brought the entire Louis Vuitton design team out to celebrate with him as he ran down the runway to take his bow in head-to-toe Damoflage to close the show.