Pharrell’s spectacular Louis Vuitton debut redefined what a fashion show can be – ft a Jay-Z gig
By Barry Pierce | Fashion | 21 June 2023

There was little doubt that Pharrell was going to go above and beyond with his first show as Louis Vuitton’s menswear creative director, but did anyone expect this!? Shutting down central Paris and turning the iconic Pont Neuf into a runway feels like a fantasy thought up by a blockbuster Hollywood film but no, it was very real and it was spectacular.

At the show, it was hard to know exactly where to look. Did you watch the models marching along the runway or did you look for the plethora of celebrities dotted through the crowd? The guestlist was endless. At a glance: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, LeBron James, Tyler The Creator, Marcus Rashford, Zendaya, Kim Kardashian, Megan Thee Stallion, Jared Leto, Lewis Hamilton, Jaden Smith, Willow Smith, Kelly Rowland, Jonathan Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Lenny Kravitz, we could go on and on. (And this extended to the runway, which saw Stefano Pilati, Dave and Pusha T walk.) If there’s one thing nobody doubted, it was Pharrell’s pull.

But it wasn’t all pageantry for the sake of it, Pharrell imbued every aspect of the show with meaning. The Pont Neuf was chosen because of its proximity to the Louis Vuitton studios. It also embodied a metaphorical connection, between Paris and Virginia, Pharrell’s home state. The clothing too was a perfect melding of Pharrell’s own style and the heritage of LV.

The most notable aspect of Pharrell’s SS24 collection was the newly innovated damoflage pattern. LV’s iconic damier design, which adorns its most legendary pieces, was combined with camouflage as a tribute to the style of Pharrell’s longtime friends in Paris. The damoflage appeared everywhere. On accessories, workwear, denim, pyjamas, in the intarsia of the knitwear and furs, in the jacquard of tailoring.

Elsewhere, the damier appeared on denim, on sports jerseys and on bejewelled bags. It also found itself completely reimagined as a sort-of 8 bit design motif: jackets with images of the Pont Neuf and Notre Dame were so wonderfully retro, as if viewing Paris through the screen of a GameBoy.

The music production was special – this is Pharrell, after all. Split into stages, we began with atmospheric orchestral strings before a new track by US hip-hop duo Clipse – titled Chains ‘N Whips – kicked in, travelling down the river Seine throughout Paris. Lastly, Virginian gospel choir Voices of Fire performed a Pharrell collab, Joy (Unspeakable), that was stirring, uplifting, incredible: “If you want it, you can have it, if you need it, you can have it” they sang – oh, we want it. On the runway, the world of Pharrell’s Louis Vuitton played out across 75 individual looks.

Classic LV trunks rolled onto the runway on the backs of buggies, paraded like the royalty they are. The damoflage pattern centre stage again as the trunks were adorned in Monogram Copper, a healing element essential to all living organisms, known to transform in the light of the sun. Canvas bags and leather backpacks received the same treatment, along with more pixelated artwork and damier patterns.

There is a sense that this collection covered every type of men’s clothing there is. There were blue pyjama shirts and trousers in damier silk, single-breasted suit jackets, collarless tailoring, large yellow and multicoloured trench coats emblazed with the Pont Neuf motif, and cropped workwear hoodies. Shearling aviators, parkas, and checkered leather biker jackets. LV football shirts will be everywhere soon, as will LVer logos. On heads, there were felt block hats, wool hats, crochet bucket hats, monogrammed leather caps, brown dandy flatcaps, matcha green reversible caps, leather ear warmer caps, leather berets, wool berets, berets, chunky beanies, structured beanies, crochet beanies, and hats that turned into long woollen scarves.

Footwear was epic. A desire for comfort was captured in shearling slippers in Monogram intarsia, their outsole embossed with a bear’s footprint, alongside Mary-Janes and an LV-crested leather hotel slipper in Damier pop colours. Glazed leather penny loafers and expanded leather loafers appeared in crystal-encrusted variations. Several designs were also interpreted with the waffle-relief LV Chunky sole. There was something for everyone.

At the end, Pharrell came out for his bow, got down on one knee, prayed, and pointed to the sky in honour of his predecessor and friend Virgil Abloh. “This moment is dedicated to the giant before me. To our brother in spirit,” read the show notes.

And, as if you didn’t feel spoilt enough after the runway, the show was finished out with a set by Pharrell and Jay-Z, performing the likes of Neptunes classic Frontin’ and Jay-Z’s On To The Next One to guests and locals dancing on their balconies. This is how you usher in a new era.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Louis Vuitton MENS-SPRING-SUMMER-2024