Pharrell Williams warned: “The parade will be a striking immersive experience. » Met in Paris in the offices of Louis Vuitton, on June 13, the music producer and singer appointed to head the men’s line of Vuitton (owned by LVMH) had deployed all the diplomacy of which an American superstar is capable to reveal nothing from his first collection. But he had hinted that his first parade for the biggest luxury brand in the world would be a show, one of those who mark the spirits.
Tuesday, June 20, as part of Parisian men’s fashion week, the show took place at nightfall on the Pont-Neuf, just opposite the headquarters of Louis Vuitton and the Cheval Blanc hotel, which LVMH also owns. .
The area had been cordoned off to welcome and ensure the safety of some 1,750 guests, including an unlikely list of celebrities: Beyoncé arrived hand in hand with Jay-Z, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton walked the cobblestones of the covered bridge of a golden film, Naomi Campbell remained stoic in the scents of cannabis that occasionally perfumed the atmosphere, Leonardo DiCaprio managed to go unnoticed in the crowd of curious people who crowded around Zendaya, Kim Kardashian or even LeBron James. Rihanna, who arrived late with A$AP Rocky, was quietly infiltrated in the middle of the show. Barack and Michelle Obama were announced, but eventually canceled.
Pharrell Williams wanted to accompany the unveiling of his first collection of musical performances, and therefore organize it on June 21, the day of the Fête de la Musique, but he did not have the agreement of the Paris Police Prefecture. An annoyance on the date that did not lead him to review the nature of his projects: at 10:30 p.m., an orchestra of 50 musicians took to the stage at the end of the bridge, accompanied by the star pianist Lang Lang, to perform a classic piece specially composed by Pharrell Williams. Afterwards, a gospel choir of 80 singers took over, then, after the parade, Jay-Z gave a half-hour concert where Pharrell Williams came to perform his first single, Frontine (2003) with him.
And the clothes in all this? The many performances could have served to distract attention from an uninspired collection, but that is not the case. With unexpected acuity, Pharrell Williams, supported by the design studio largely inherited from his predecessor, Virgil Abloh, proposed 71 looks that resemble him, while refreshing the Vuitton codes.
The checkerboard is everywhere, pixel-like
The ensemble forms a skilful mix of slightly bling streetwear and offbeat elegance where suit jackets are worn with skirts, pearl-embroidered tracksuits, chick yellow fur coats, leather baseball jackets of crocodile. The brand’s emblematic checkerboard is everywhere, it merges with pixels, sometimes evoking a camouflage pattern.
We also feel the potential of the accessories, like the best-selling Speedy bags available here in more luxurious versions in lambskin and bright colors. Or these marked berets “Lovers” (“in love”) with the letters L and V stylized as on the Louis Vuitton logo, “Lovers” being a reference to the state of Virginia where Pharrell Williams is from and whose slogan has been, since 1969, “Virginia is for lovers” (“Virginia is for lovers”). Both singular and commercial, the collection seduces.
The success of this first show by Pharrell Williams for Vuitton was important, as it was one of the most anticipated fashion events of the year. To everyone’s surprise, the music producer was named artistic director of men’s collections in February, a post that had remained vacant since the sudden death of his predecessor, Virgil Abloh in November 2021. luxury appeals to a star: just in May singer Dua Lipa collaborated with Versace for a capsule collection.
But this is the first time that a house of the stature of Vuitton has chosen a celebrity to steer its artistic direction over the long term (designer contracts generally last three years, renewable). “It was a risk. admits CEO Pietro Beccari, met before the show. After Virgil (Abloh), I couldn’t have chosen a traditional designer, I needed someone with something more, a creative who touches people’s hearts, through music, collaborations. » In the fashion world, for several months, criticism has been going strong: could a music producer imagine a convincing clothing proposal?
“I am a conductor”
Pharrell Williams did not study fashion – any more than Virgil Abloh, an architecture graduate – which did not prevent him from launching his streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club with designer Nigo in 2003, then multiplying the collaborations over the years with Adidas, Chanel, Uniqlo, Moncler… Or even Vuitton in 2008, where he met Pietro Beccari.
The Italian became president and CEO of Louis Vuitton in February, and one of his first decisions was to appoint Pharrell Williams. “I sent him a message on December 22, 2022, we spoke on the 23rd. On February 14, he signed his contract and moved to Paris, remembers the CEO. It’s true that he didn’t go to fashion school. But he didn’t study music either, and that didn’t stop him from winning thirteen Grammy Awards. »
The biggest luxury brand in the world, whose turnover exceeded 20 billion euros in 2022, needed a popular and influential figure to continue its growth. “Pharrell,” a well-known and mainstream pop star known to Gen Zers and 40-somethings alike who danced to his Daft Punk remixes in the early 2000s, has 14.6 million followers on his Instagram account. “With Pharrell, we will probably reach people who had never heard of Louis Vuitton or thought that LV had nothing to offer them”hopes Pietro Beccari.
Pharrell Williams, for his part, affirms that he would not have “never imagined getting there” and this “pinch every day to check (that he) do not dream “but he was not worried about the magnitude of the task: “Music and fashion are different languages, but the background is the same: in both cases, I am a conductor. At Vuitton, it’s a very big orchestra. » It is true that today the role of an artistic director is less to design clothes than to have a global and coherent vision for the brand. Responsible for the style, image, communication and events, the designer must above all be a charismatic leader capable of leading teams.
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When he greeted the public at the end of the parade, Pharrell Williams also took care to come accompanied by the design studio that gave life to this collection. Along the way, he kissed his wife and children, installed in the front row, very close to the clan of Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH), his adopted family.