This past Valentine’s Day, Louis Vuitton announced that Pharrell Williams would be their new men’s creative director. Pharrell is taking over the vacant position once filled by Virgil Abloh, who was appointed to the role in 2018 and revolutionized the brand throughout his tenure, which only ended due to his untimely death in 2021.
Abloh’s time with Louis Vuitton was one of street style reinvention, Black empowerment and multidisciplinary innovation for the French luxury fashion house. His menswear collections took the brand’s street style to a refined and thought-provoking next level, with colorful and often surrealist artistic inventions. Abloh’s runway shows were an immersive world full of rainbows, blow-up figures and even futuristic use of metal makeup on models’ faces. Abloh also played with dimension in his sculptural, protruding creations such as a beautiful “ode to Paris” top in the autumn-winter 2021-2022 collection.
Contrary to Abloh’s often whimsical approach, Pharrell told the New York Times that he doesn’t “want anything to be just for aesthetics,” and that “Everything has to have a real function.” Pharrell is the second Black man to hold the creative director title at Louis Vuitton—Abloh was the first. “This is the crown jewel of the LVMH portfolio. It’s everything, and I was appointed to rule in this position,” Pharrell said. “So No. 1, a ruler of a position is usually like a king. But a ruler of this position for me is a perpetual student. It’s what I intend to be.”
Pharrell’s debut Louis Vuitton collection on Tuesday, June 20 in Paris has been highly anticipated by the fashion industry, and is one of the most eagerly-awaited shows the Spring/Summer 2024 menswear season. A teaser campaign with Rihanna showed the pregnant singer regally posed amidst an array of LV’s iconic monogrammed Speedy bags, in a variety of new colors.
Pharrell’s first runway show in Paris, which took place at the Pont Neuf (the oldest standing bridge in the French capital city!), continued to showcase these bags, along with a glitch camo print. A variety of colors and styles debuted this redesign of the brand’s signature checkerboard Damier. Standouts included long coats and full suits, as well as a smattering of camo rain boots, sunglasses and berets. Pharrell stuck to earth tones—deep maroon, army green and mustard yellow often appeared—along with the flashier, jewel-encrusted bomber jackets and an opening look featuring a bold camo jacket with silver paillettes.
While the brand’s staple suiting was present and impeccable (and in a beautiful assortment of denims and Earth tones), Pharrell also kept it casual in terms of ready-to-wear, with glitch camo sweatshirts and a full pajama set.
On the Pont Neuf bridge, models walked across a pale yellow runway to the sound of a full orchestra and choir. Music by Pusha T serenaded the rows of largely camo-clad models, and to no one’s surprise, this was a truly star-studded presentation—celebrities in attendance included Beyonce and Jay-Z, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, Kim Kardashian, Zendaya, Lewis Hamilton and Jaden and Willow Smith.
With a theme of “lovers,” Pharrell’s first Louis Vuitton show successfully launched the brand into a new era, one full of risk-taking and experimentation with colors and patterns. An emphasis on overcoats and accessories left many brand staples untouched, while the upheaval of LV’s Damier in favor of glitch camo pushed the brand’s street style into the forest.
A look back at Pharrell’s history with the brand, however, reveals why we perhaps should have seen this debut collection coming, and why we have more to look forward to in the future of Pharrell’s Louis Vuitton menswear.
Pharrell’s relationship with Louis Vuitton began in 2004, with the release of “Millionaire” sunglasses in collaboration with Marc Jacobs and Nigo. The thick red aviators, with monogrammed gold trim, quickly became iconic, so much so that Abloh updated the glasses in 2018 as part of his initial LV show.
These sunglasses were emblematic of Pharrell’s style at the time. In 2004, his style was eclectic and youthful. He wore oversized chains, baseball hats, loud colors and funky graphic prints. Very much a part of skate culture, Pharrell wasn’t afraid to innovate the skater style, infusing classic shapes with bright colors and patterns. The graphics in Pharrell’s brand Billionaire Boys Club (which he founded in 2003) and its offshoot Icecream are eye-catching and simple, yet effective.
In 2008, Pharrell worked with Louis Vuitton once again, collaborating on a jewelry line with Camille Miceli. The pieces were inventive and fantastical, with Pharrell’s striking use of color and flashy love of sparkle truly making the collection a work of art.
Pharrell has a certain confidence when it comes to fashion that will aid him greatly in his future LV endeavors. Whether it be denim on denim, an oversized fedora hat, or gender-bending, Pharrell owns his looks with an elegance and a swag that come together to create a special type of fashion icon.