The most anticipated show of the season and of the year was a spectacle to behold. Pharrell Williams, known to many of his musical fans as Skateboard P was not here to perform or tour, although he did have support from Jay-Z on stage after what would mark his debut collection at Louis Vuitton as Mens Artistic Director.
We're yet to have an official name for the collection, however, the recurring moniker of "LVERS" was hard to ignore, setting the tone for the show - being defined as a state of mind: warmth, wellbeing, and welcome-ness.
Whether you're a big fan of P or LV, or a fan of neither, there's tons to get your teeth stuck into. Lets unpack.
Contextually, it goes without saying this show was overwhelming to say the least. Given the tragic passing of the great Virgil Abloh it was always going to be a tricky task choosing his successor. Virgil's tenure symbolised change within the industry, it was a historical timestamp being the first Black Artistic Director within the Maison, that was established in 1854. Months passed and so did many names, in and out the walls of Vuitton: Martine Rose, Wales Bonner, Samuel Ross & JW Anderson but finally they landed on Monsieur Williams.
His experience is not attributed to an esteemed school of any kind but fashion isn't really about that at the moment, as we've seen a new era of non-traditional "designers" & "creative directors" being placed at the helm of a Maison or even seeing success within their own brands. This show paid homage to a lot, evidencing how suitable he was for this job; on the runway we could see referential glimpses of his early relationship with Louis Vuitton, his dear friend and collaborator Nigo, his love for Japan, BBC Ice Cream & BAPE days, his past collaboration with Chanel and so much more. This show portrayed to us all of why we love Pharrell. In his show notes he wrote "this moment is dedicated to the giant before me. To our brother in spirit".
Moving on to the production, it was truly beautiful. The score in words was a mix of triumph, courageousness, imagination, feeling very dreamlike at times. The imagery we were able to grasp from the runway was rich and surreal; the golden paved Pont Neuf was a metaphorical bridge from Virginia (Pharrell's hometown) to Paris. Followed by an angelic choir, not only evidenced by their shimmering white silk cloaks but by a repetition of "Joy" - this was the moment we needed, a moment to breathe, a moment to feel happy.
Contrary to the show itself, of course with a debut there would be huge discourse around the clothes we'd be presented with but Pharrell performed on this particular occasion. Taking the collection in, in it's entirety there were brilliant moments, references, motifs and ideas littered throughout. Williams was able to talk his ish and flaunt the knowledge and accolades he's gained in the fashion industry via Damier knitted collarless jackets & hats with pearl details (referencing classic Chanel cotton tweed styles & his previous "Chanel Pharrell" collab), a bright red letterman jacket (reflecting on his Princess Anne High School varsity), tons of androgynous flowy skirts and boxy shorts in combination with new cargo socks (evidencing his love for Japan) & a mix of minimal denim, leather jackets, shearlings and shirts.
He did not lie when he said to Vogue there's “something for everyone” in this collection. I got a sense of movement toward a more open and mature wardrobe for LV, whilst keeping the DNA of both himself and Virgil - we couldn't miss the iconic iconography. This collection was inclusive, referencing people from all walks of life which we were able to see through the array of suit-short pairings, mixed in with football jerseys and berets.
Unlike the former, we were drowned in this new style of print called "Damouflage" - which was P's take on championing the historical Damier canvas. It “pops up here and there" but "doesn’t get celebrated enough to explore as a platform”. The canvas was first introduced in 1889, making it older than the LV Monogram so it did make sense being chosen as a focal point but the timing wasn't the best; with Loewe having their pixelated moment for SS23 which was a very trend based episode. For those making the immediate connection, Pharrell explored digi camo years ago through BBC Ice Cream. Probably the most critique you'll hear out of a stellar showing, the new graphic was quite tasteful in muted, similar hues.
Now, the accessories - utterly superb.
Upon his appointment it was known that this department would be the one Pharrell would excel in, not only because Vuitton was birthed on luxury luggage and accessories but due to Pharrell's huge obsession and talent with small items, accents, jewellery and shoes. Surely holding back tears, he sported custom diamond covered tiny-eyed Tiffany & Co. sunglasses. Let that not be the theft of the show, we were spoilt with a selection of new keepalls, speedy's, totes, & trunks in shades of yellow, orange, brown, blue & green - mirroring his Human Made colour palette. As said to Vogue, the new Speedy's & Keepall Bandouliere's feature an updated "buttery, soft" leather replacing the treated canvas we were used to. We're assured we'll have to pay the price but who wouldn't want to, these new styles will be very limited.
Besides bags we saw a range of new sunnies, oversized beanies, checkered flat caps, blankets, bear sized comfy boots and star studded sneakers. A continuation of nuanced ideas were explored through dice holder keychains taking us back to Hip-Hop's golden days as well as a reminder of Virgil's SS23 boombox backpack.
If you thought that was all you may've missed the amount of support that rocked up to show out for Pharrell. From Beyonce to Jay-Z bopping his head to the convictive cadence of Pusha T's verse on a new track by Clipse who were also on the runway.
London's finest - Skepta & Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Zendaya, LeBron James, Tyler, the Creator and many many more all piled on to this lengthy bridge to celebrate. There's plenty of excuses for recovering from sensory overload on the first day of Paris Fashion Week.
In conclusion, a great debut. You should expect more experiments further down the line for the ones who thought Mr Williams played it safe. I'm excited for what the future has in store and how he continues V’s legacy with collaboration and bringing people on board, having already tapped Gabriel Moses to direct the SS24 campaign. It'd also be amazing to see how he explores design as a whole and challenge what is possible at the top level of creating in fashion but let us just sit and enjoy the ride.
By Luca Allick-Smith