Did Barack Obama really walk? Did Beyoncé show up? Here’s everything you need to know from the most anticipated show of the SS24 fashion season
Bonjour!!!!!!!! We’ve left Milan behind and landed in Paris today, where fashion week kicks off with less of a bang and more of an almighty explosion, as Pharrell Williams makes his debut as creative director of Louis Vuitton. With names like Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner, and Maximilian Davis originally thrown in the hat as hot contenders for the role, the N.E.R.D icon’s appointment split fashion fans right down the middle – on one hand, his army of stans couldn’t wait for Pharrell to take the helm, while on the other were plenty of people who questioned his credentials: was his celebrity status and star pull actually just a cash grab to keep LVMH’s crown jewel shining bright?
Truth is, this isn’t Pharrell’s first fashion rodeo. Going back to the early 00s and his collaborations with Nigo – first with Billionaire Boys Club, and later with BAPE – the creative polymath basically laid the blueprint for streetwear to become the behemoth it is now. With collabs with Chanel, Comme des Garçons, and legendary Paris boutique Colette (RIP, still want to run to you) under his belt, Pharrell is well equipped for this new gig. And that‘s before we’ve even mentioned his OG collab with Louis Vuitton when Marc Jacobs enlisted him to create a pair of shades he called the ‘Millionaire’ – which were later resurrected by the late Virgil Abloh at his first seminal Paris Fashion Week show. So, you know, there’s already a link there.
Anyway: I digress. On to the main event and everything you need to know…
CALLING ALL LVERS
In the lead-up to his much-anticipated debut, Pharrell said the collection would be centred on the word “lovers” – which was perhaps to be expected of a designer who was hired on Valentine’s Day and whose most well-known song is titled “Happy”. It helps, too, that the unofficial mantra of Pharrell’s hometown is “Virginia is for lovers”. The invite evoked similar feelings of warmth and adoration, appearing on the Instagram stories of fashion editors as stained-glass keepsakes, its amber panels converging into a dreamlike sunset over the Pont Neuf. It was, it transpired, a sign of things to come.
THE RUMOURS WERE RUMOURING
It’s a well-documented fact that fashion absolutely j’adores a gossipé, and in the days before the show, rumours got increasingly wilder. From a full-on N.E.R.D reunion to a heavily pregnant Rihanna either performing or walking the catwalk just a week after her turn as the new LV campaign star, to runway appearances from Beyoncé and former POTUS Barack Obama, the rumour mill went into overdrive the closer we got to show time. Turns out, plenty of them were totally faux, but a handful of them were rooted in fact. Which leads us to our next point.
HALF OF HOLLYWOOD TURNED UP
Guests arrived at the location on service boats, finding themselves on the Pont Neuf, transformed into a banana-yellow chequerboard. Pharrell is probably one of the most well-connected people in the arts, meaning Beyoncé – accompanied by husband Jay Z and Julius – took a break from her Goliath world tour and sat beside LVMH bigwig Bernard Arnault, A$AP Rocky, and Rihanna. But here is a non-exhaustive list of every other celebrity that flew into Paris for the behemoth spectacle: Tyler, The Creator, Zendaya, Naomi Campbell, Skepta, Megan Thee Stallion, Kim Kardashian, Jaden and Willow Smith, Jackson Wang, Coi Leray, Lewis Hamilton, Mia Khalifa, Clint, and Anitta. They watched on as A$AP Ferg, Pusha-T, and Stefano Pilati took turns on the actual catwalk. Shopping! But for the rich!
PHARRELL SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
The show opened with a short film of an actor strolling along the banks of the Seine, before approaching a bench where he admits he is afraid of confessing to the grandeur of his ambitions to a sage elder. “Actions speak louder than words,” he replies, which might be Pharrell’s response to all the naysayers on High Fashion Twitter who took umbrage with his appointment.
THE COLLECTION TRAVELLED FROM THE PAST TO FUTURE
@dazed Rollin into #ParisFashionWeek SS24 Men’s like 🛻 #pharrell getting models to drive trucks at his debut show as creative director of @Louis Vuitton 💥 #DazedFashionTV #LVMenSS24 #LouisVuitton #SS24 #PharrellWilliams #PFW #FashionWeek #ParisFashionWeek ♬ original sound - Zodiac
A first collection is an opportunity to codify the key components of a creative director’s vision – from the granular design details to signature silhouettes, bags, and footwear. The opening looks comprised a series of short-suits with the classic LV monogram emblazoned on ties, as a cinematic soundtrack gave rise to leather hoodies, kilts, waders, and laser-cut trench coats that looked as though they had been shredded in combat (all of which bore the house’s 2018 pixelated motif). One lodestone that emerged across the collection was “the Damouflage” (a new take on the label’s trademark check, which pretty much does what it says on the tin) that figured across flocked jeans, tailoring, and even the soles of trainers. At one point, a twee milk float carried stacks of olde worlde trunks, which seemed to honour the roots of Louis Vuitton as a luggage brand. It’s easy to forget that the maison only started to create clothing in 1997 when Marc Jacobs took to the helm.
The Speedy bags were another hallmark, rendered in retina-popping primary colours inspired by the bootleg iterations hawked on New York’s Canal Street, alongside a number of pieces that had been embroidered with faces taken from paintings by the African American artist Henry Taylor. Elsewhere, the Parisian skyline figured across plump track jackets, raincoats, and cropped blazers, while faux-croc bombers and faux-fur jackets were embossed with the LV monogram. There were Mao-collared blazers, imitation shopping bags, and hirsute boots which revealed animist paw-prints beneath. The designers of SS24 seem to be increasingly attracted to anamorphic shoes (see: Jonathan Anderson and Charles Jeffrey, for example) just as they are collegiate aesthetics, which surfaced here in Mary-Janes, baker boy caps, boat-shaped bags, and rugby polos in oversized leather. Amongst all the buttery macs and shearling jackets in swamp greens, the presiding silhouette was slouchy and ever-so-slightly flared, piled with pearl necklaces, brooches, and pocket chains.
IT WAS FOR EVERYONE
@dazed @Pharrell just debuted his first collection at @Louis Vuitton ✨ Stay tuned to #DazedFashionTV for more 👀 #LVMenSS24 #LouisVuitton #SS24 #PharrellWilliams #PFW #FashionWeek #ParisFashionWeek ♬ original sound - dazed
As Rihanna’s campaign teased – while the collection will be sold under Louis Vuitton’s menswear imprint – the clothes are meant for all kinds of people. After all, crystal-encrusted snowboots and hard-bottomed sneakers do not have a gender so much as they have a bank balance: “We wanted this life, we salivated like wolves / Blow a hundred grand on LV leather goods,” as Pharrell rapped on his 2006 mixtape, “In My Mind: The Prequel”. To bear down on his inclusive messaging, the designer also cast what must be Louis Vuitton’s first-ever plus-size male model. Equally as exciting – but not quite as culture-shifting – was the reintroduction of Louis Vuitton’s iconic Miroir bags, once beloved by Paris Hilton when Kim Kardashian was a mere wardrobe assistant in the 00s.
PHARRELL DROPPED NEW MUSIC (KIND OF)
There is now an entire section of the Louis Vuitton headquarters transformed into a recording studio. As such, the show was soundtracked to a spate of new tracks produced by Pharrell, including “Joy (Unspeakable”), performed by the Virginia gospel choir Voices of Fire, a track named “Chains & Whips”, and “Peace Be Still”, which has been in the making for over a decade. The soaring harmonies and lush vocals were a monumental and emotional backdrop to a behemoth debut. As the choir repeated the word “joy” ad infinitum, models took a final lap down the length of the 238-metre bridge, with Pharrell taking a bow in a flared Damouflage suit. He clasped his hands in prayer, pointed to the heavens, and genuflected before his design team.
AND THEN HE PERFORMED WITH JAY-Z
That Jay-Z and Pharrell should take to the sage together probably feels the same as doing karaoke with an old friend, only you’ve written the tracks. As Rihanna bumped to the music on the front row – with just about everyone desperate to get a video of her on their iPhones – the duo went over their back catalogue, including “Frontin’” and “On To The Next One”.