Pharrell Williams brings star power to Louis Vuitton debut

House patterns, streetwear and plenty of bags stopped Paris in its tracks on Tuesday night

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On Tuesday night, Pharrell Williams made his spectacular menswear debut for Louis Vuitton in Paris, in what was one of the most hotly anticipated fashion events in years.

Held on the Pont Neuf, next to the brand's headquarters, Williams was able to exercise his considerable star power to shut down a great chunk of central Paris, with the likes of LeBron James, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and Lewis Hamilton all in attendance.

Rihanna – the star of Williams's first campaign for the house – arrived with her partner A$AP Rocky. Lenny Kravitz was there with Naomi Campbell, as was Nigo, Kenzo designer and long-time Williams collaborator.

The models, including ex-YSL designer Stefano Pilati, walked to an unreleased track by American rapper Pusha T, accompanied by a choir. To close the show, Williams got on stage and performed with Jay-Z.

So what about the clothes? With a message of “love, peace and joy”, Williams doubled down on Vuitton motifs, in particular the checkered Damier print.

A 'damouflage' look by Pharrell Williams for the Louis Vuitton menswear spring/summer 2024 collection. Getty Images

Mixed with camouflage, to become "damouflage" – and used in varying scale from minute to huge and edged with the blanket stitch – the print arrived across shorts, denim, hats, floor-trailing trench coats, suits, varsity jackets and bags.

Two looks came out in Vuitton’s stiff epi leather – one as a coat, the other a varsity jacket and matching trousers, with Louis Vuitton splashed across the front. It felt like something out of Minecraft, while another coat carried a view of central Paris. At one point, a golf buggy piled high with Vuitton luggage whizzed down the runway, a tribute to the roots of the house.

Stepping into the shoes of Virgil Abloh, who died at age 41 in 2021, was never going to be easy, but Williams has pulled off the impossible by making Louis Vuitton his own.

With 73 looks that shifted from metallics through suiting and even some eveningwear thrown in for good measure, the show was about luxe told through leather, croc and upscaled denim, covered in the replicated stripes of epi.

Epi leather made into clothing. Getty Images

While the styling felt a little heavy at times (how many bags is too many?), there is no denying the collection, with its boot-cut trousers and layering, run through with a streetwear snap, is immensely wearable. This was an assured, colourful and spectacular debut.

To take his bow, Williams walked the full length of the runway, visibly wiping away tears as the crowd applauded on its feet. He repeatedly dropped to one knee to bow to the audience, to acknowledge the outpouring of emotion.

Since the untimely death of Abloh, Louis Vuitton menswear has been in a holding pattern waiting for new leadership. If the show last night is anything to go by, it has found it in Williams, who in addition to being a producer, singer and humanitarian, can now be called a bona fide designer.

Updated: June 21, 2023, 4:35 AM