Rihanna! Beyoncé! Zendaya! Pharrell stuns the stars with a ‘Joy’ful Louis Vuitton Men debut
As Paris Men's Fashion Week kicks off, Pharrell Williams' first collection for Louis Vuitton Men was a star-studded success.
He famously got the world to sing “Happy” — but it’s “Joy” Pharrell Williams brought to Paris’ famed Pont Neuf bridge on Tuesday night with his debut collection for Louis Vuitton Men. As Paris Men’s Fashion Week kicked off, the artist, producer, and designer presented his vision for the luxury house in his first presentation since succeeding the late Virgil Abloh.
As devoted fashion followers likely recall, Abloh’s 2018 debut for Louis Vuitton was a “Wizard of Oz”-inspired affair attended by some of the biggest names in fashion and entertainment, including a then-uncoupled Rihanna and A$AP Rocky. Now parents, Rocky and Rih, who stars in Williams‘ inaugural LV campaign, were back in the front row, dressed in straight-off-the-runway denim Damier-checked ensembles, with Rihanna’s baby bump artfully displayed. There, they watched new Creative Director Williams’ take on the famed yellow brick road, this time rendered as the label’s golden Damier check spanning the Seine River.
In addition to Rihanna and Rocky, the star-studded front row was a who’s who of Black celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, fashion, and sports. On a break from her “Renaissance” tour, Beyoncé held court in a luxe golden pajama and robe set by the label. She was accompanied by her husband, Jay-Z, who reportedly thrilled the crowd alongside Williams with a post-show performance of the duo’s greatest hits.
Flanking Beyoncé was new LV brand ambassador Zendaya in a jeweled, two-piece printed set by the brand. Also in attendance were Megan Thee Stallion; Naomi Campbell; Kelly Rowland; Tyler, the Creator; A$AP Ferg; Jaden and Willow Smith; June Ambrose; Lewis Hamilton; Skepta; Coi Leray; Clint; Maluma; and Anitta. Among several celebs on the runway, a standout was the appearance of Pusha T and No Malice, reunited as The Clipse in matching airbrushed and bedazzled leather ensembles.
For those not blessed to be in the star-studded front row, Williams graced us with a short film of the presentation. The 25-minute film opened with a prelude titled “Pupil King,” directed by Todd Tourso, in which Williams’ Voices of Fire choir sang a powerful refrain of “Joy!” along the banks of the Seine as a Vuitton-clad comedian Jerrod Carmichael joined artist Henry Taylor for a short but poignant discussion on ambition and success.
“Do you admit to yourself how bad you want it?” asked Carmichael of the older Black man, admitting that in his shyness, “Sometimes, I don’t say, like, truly how badly I want it. … Do you feel that way?”
Amid his thoughtful response, Taylor repeated the adage, “Actions speak louder than words.”
If the vignette was Williams’ method of quieting those skeptical of his ability to follow in Abloh’s now-hallowed footsteps — despite well-documented collaborations with Chanel, Adidas, and Comme des Garçons, as well as the success of Billionaire Boys Club and BAPE — he effectively did so with his first collection. The ambitious, gender-fluid, and ultimately immensely wearable assortment of clothing, footwear, and accessories reimagined many of the legacy brand’s most identifiable motifs with a collection that might be the label’s most accessible in recent years.
“I am the client,” Williams told Women’s Wear Daily, a statement vividly reflected in much of the boyish charm exuded by the collection. Schoolboy-ready shorts, ties, and knapsacks were abundant and paired with militaristic color schemes and motifs and the occasional bear paw slipper, evoking the image of boys playing war games. In effect, not unlike the surrealism of a Wes Anderson film, Williams seemed ready to send the fashion boys (and girls and folx) off to war — or at the very least, to revolution.
That vibe was most notable in reconfiguring the aforementioned Damier check into “Damoflage,” Williams’ ingenious take on the ever-popular camo print. In addition to being tailored into a suit worn by the designer himself, the print appeared on leather, denim, canvas, twills, wools, and silks, via “an 8-bit Atari Damier motif created by digital artist ET Artist,” notes Rain digital magazine.
The LV logo also got a rebrand, not only appearing on classic trunks and luggage with new copper accents, now branded as “Monogram Copper,” but in new preppy, primary colorways and gold and silver embossing. Elsewhere, Rain notes prints by Taylor were “micro-embroidered on tailoring, denim, and accessories, infusing the collection with a deeply personal touch and artistic expression.”
Drawing inspiration from the slogan of his home state of Virginia (“Virginia is for lovers”), Williams also introduced “LVERS,” a “diverse global community that shares a deep appreciation for the Maison’s core values,” explains Rain. Speaking with WWD, Williams explained the concept was also inspired by his appointment to the role on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s like love at first sight,” he told the outlet. “LV is for Louis Vuitton, but it’s also for lovers, you know: lovers of the moment, lovers of detail, lovers of this time, and people who want to absolutely squeeze the best out of life, down to the last drop.”
Admittedly, the runway show was equally good to the last, as the multiracial Voices of Fire choir closed the show with a rousing rendition of their most recent single, “Joy (Unspeakable),” featuring (of course) Williams. In fact, from the music on, the polymath’s prints were all over the production; according to a press release to theGrio, his Humanrace skincare line was also used on the models backstage by Dame Pat McGrath.
Undoubtedly, the loss of Abloh, whose appointment to lead menswear at Louis Vuitton made history in 2018, was a tremendous blow to the fashion industry and the label he helmed. “His spirit is still here,” assured Williams, who considered Abloh a good friend. “[A]nd now that I’m here, it’s not canceling out anything from the past. If anything, it’s just continuing to evolve,” he told WWD.
Nevertheless, if anyone remains unconvinced of Williams’ ability to lead Louis Vuitton Men into its next phase, he is unfazed. “I didn’t go to Central Saint Martins [design school], but I also didn’t go to Juilliard either in music … we see how that turned out,” he said. “It’s cool. … I only aspire to express myself.”
Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, great books, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body: Words of Change series.
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