PARIS (AP) – Louis Vuitton opened a new chapter in its glorious history and made an indelible mark at the Paris Fashion Week men’s shows with the premiere of musician and designer Pharrell Williams’ debut collection.
Appointed in February to fill in the huge footsteps left by the death of Virgil Abloh, Williams showcased his design prowess to the fashion world with a show that exuded confidence.
The stunning setting for this fashion extravaganza was the iconic Pont Neuf in Paris. Typically resplendent with worn stone, the historic bridge has been transformed into a golden runway – a dramatic stage set against the backdrop of the shimmering River Seine and under the starry Parisian sky.
Tuesday night’s event attracted a constellation of stars all of its own. The high-profile audience consisted of icons from music, sports and entertainment. Among the guests lining the gilded cobblestones were music kings Beyoncé and Jay-Z, NBA superstar LeBron James, new brand ambassador Zendaya and global pop phenomenon Rihanna.
Williams’ first show proved an ambitious endeavor, marrying the luxury and sophistication of haute couture with the vibrant energy and broad appeal of pop culture and entertainment. The show was more than a catwalk presentation; It was an immersive experience that captured the imagination of those lucky enough to witness it first hand.
Here are some highlights of the Spring-Summer 2024 shows:
As sunlight filled the history-steeped halls of Louis Vuitton’s headquarters, Williams assumed his new role as the house’s menswear designer.
His appointment symbolizes more than a career change. It represents a bold move for the luxury brand to give the position to a music artist and cultural influencer rather than a classically trained designer. But Pharrell says he feels no pressure to prove himself – he’s been chosen.
“I didn’t feel any of that because if I was fighting for it and people kept telling me, ‘No, don’t do it,’ maybe that’s how I would have felt. But the difference is that I was chosen,” Pharrell said in a joint interview with the AP. “So if you get picked, you just ride the wave.”
For him, the feeling of being chosen by the universe or by Louis Vuitton is a sense of destiny. But stepping into the role of designer is not just about fulfilling your personal destiny. Williams also feels he is carrying on the legacy of the late Abloh, who was Louis Vuitton’s first black artistic director and a personal friend. “My appointment is a tribute,” Williams said.
Black culture and the struggles that black Americans have faced are a powerful driving force for Pharrell. He reflected on the culture’s unique flavor, influence, and widespread appeal. “I think it’s something to do with the sauce,” he said. “And people like it when they try.”
Williams highlighted the hard-won global recognition of this cultural “sauce,” which is evident in the influence of figures such as LeBron James, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Prince and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“Many people lost their lives and suffered from the experiences that got us into these positions,” he noted, underscoring the painful story that fuels his desire to honor his community through his work at Louis Vuitton.
Pharrell’s love of life, the moment and the possibilities inform his approach to design. “LV stands for Louis Vuitton, but it also means ‘lover,'” he mused. His interpretation of Louis Vuitton’s initials illustrates his intention to inject love and appreciation into his work and to carry on the legacy of black culture in a space where it has historically been underrepresented.
“It’s not lost on me that I’ve been given this opportunity to tell these stories,” he said.
LOUIS VUITTON SHOW
The pulse of Paris was set in turmoil as Williams unveiled a debut that fused streetwear aesthetics with the French house’s heritage heritage. The fashion show embodied high-voltage energy, reverberating through the audience and culminating in a standing ovation for Williams.
The world-renowned musician, known for his cross-genre creativity, masterfully orchestrated the event. The runway show echoed the high energy of a music video, perhaps a testament to the meteoric reach of the brand’s parent company, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Channeling gender fluid appeal, Williams presented an expansive collection that ranged from checkerboard denim to a sleek cream evening jacket. The line, characterized by photographic prints of the Pont Neuf and a uniquely designed coat with a shaved monogram motif, also underscored his sense of distinct aesthetics.
Williams’ collaboration with American pixel artist ET for a digital motif and use of black American artist Henry Taylor’s micro-embroideries played with the LV codes and added another dimension to his debut lineup. The collection was full of pixelated designs on a wide range of pieces, alongside the Damier pattern – which adorns the house’s bags – enhanced by tones of yellow and black.
The crowning glory was a spectacular concert by Jay-Z. The electrifying performance got the audience on their feet, and their excitement peaked when Pharrell took the stage to join his longtime collaborator. While Rihanna’s arrival, synchronized with the show’s climax and the reveal of her huge, bare baby bump, was nothing short of theatrical.
As the show wound down, an emotional Williams emerged, bowing, wiping away tears and pointing to the sky in a heartfelt thank you. The applause that followed was a thunderous endorsement of the musician’s successful transition into the world of luxury fashion.
A more subdued morning scene unfolded at Chanel HQ after the buzzing late evening Vuitton show. Members of the fashion press gathered, coffee and croissants in hand, to watch a breakfast presentation of Chanel’s Resort collection. Thus began the glamorous marathon of Paris Fashion Week.
Themes from the Golden Age of Hollywood dominated designer Virginie Viard’s collection and contained nods to the 1920s and 1930s. They’ve been given a distinct 1980s influence in the form of sequins and bright colors.
Viard sported a long, loose coat, a staple style one might associate with Art Deco-era film producers. Pushing the Hollywood motif further, a lace A-line mini dress borrowed its vibrant color palette from an LA sunset, a nod to Sunset Boulevard. Additionally, a ruffled tiered skirt sported the pink and white stripe pattern commonly associated with the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The addition of the Resort collection in Paris provided an opportunity to take a closer look at Viard’s Hollywood-inspired designs and associated details, without the breathlessness of a glitzy show. Amid fashion’s rapid advancement, Chanel’s collection served as a reminder of the brand’s exploration of historical and pop culture references.
The design duo behind the Botter label, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, are known for their progressive and bold approach to fashion. The spring-summer collection unveiled on Wednesday featured a range of daring and imaginative interpretations of everyday elements.
Ecological plastic wicker, typically found in chairs, has been cleverly transformed into garments. The unconventional material looked particularly striking in a bright red, structured waistcoat red that was reminiscent of chain mail and showcased Botter’s creative – and whimsical – reinterpretation of everyday objects.
Designs also featured distinctive diamond motifs that gave a slightly historical feel, particularly on skin-tight tops and tights with leggings that at times evoked the look of a medieval peasant.
Contrasting the whimsical designs, a delicate lavender knitted waistcoat unfolded like a crumbling flower and lent a touch of poetic elegance to baggy charcoal office trousers, a testament to Botter’s versatility.
While their designs tend to be bold and unconventional, they manage to strike a balance between the surreal and the wearable, appealing to a forward-thinking audience.
BLUEMARBLE SHINES WITH COLOR
Designer Anthony Alvarez didn’t shy away from color in his men’s collection for Bluemarble. Its vibrant palette was a delightful blend of citrine and dandelion. The unstructured and utilitarian designs combined streetwear sensibility with a dash of high fashion daring. Toggles that were part practical, part design statement, fluttering in unexpectedly fashionable accord with the aesthetic rhythm of the collection.
The models’ choice of tones and the silky sheen of the coats gave the show a sun-drenched appeal that aptly reflected the ‘blue marble’ – planet earth – that inspired the brand name. Bleached blonde hair and drapes subtly nodded to the late ’80s, while the boxy silhouettes seemed like a contemporary nod to the iconic era.
Building on Bluemarble’s reputation for stunning color and cultural fusion, Alvarez balanced the blending of his own diverse heritage in his designs. (He grew up with a French mother and Filipino-Spanish father.) The collection not only celebrated his brand’s global vision, but also underscored it with bold colors, strategic nostalgia and street-ready utility.