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Pharrell at Louis Vuitton: When Fashion Became Entertainment

The creative polymath’s debut show on Paris’ Pont Neuf aimed to cement Louis Vuitton’s positioning as a purveyor not just of fashion, but culture writ large.
Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2024 Menswear
Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2024 Menswear (Louis Vuitton)

PARIS — The day finally came: over a year and a half after the death of Virgil Abloh, all eyes turned to Paris’ historic Pont Neuf bridge, which Louis Vuitton had covered in gold checkerboard for the debut of new men’s creative director Pharrell Williams.

Parent company LVMH spared no expense with the mega-production, which took place steps from Louis Vuitton headquarters and the group’s glimmering Cheval Blanc hotel. Guests were ferried in by boat; champagne and canapés were served; and the runway show, which attracted everyone from fellow LVMH designers Jonathan Anderson and Camille Miceli to megastars like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, was followed by a concert by Jay-Z.

As for the clothes, it was a collage of this and that, and a foray into the house’s archive. From tailoring to sports, there was a bit of everything. The best looks had the same quirk that one can see in Pharrell’s own sense of personal style. The emphasis on the house’s damier felt a bit institutional, but the pixelated camo looks using the motif — which tapped into the same cryptopunk aesthetic as recent Loewe — had freshness and appeal.

Pharrell’s appointment coincided with Vuitton’s coming out as a “cultural brand.” At €20 billion in annual revenues, Vuitton has outgrown fashion as its primary vehicle for generating buzz. As such, Pharrell’s output was as much about the overall spirit as the clothes, driving home a commercially potent message: Louis Vuitton is Paris; and Louis Vuitton is travel, music and culture writ large.

The challenge going forward is how to harness such a powerful brand — including all the checkerboard and monogram signifiers that come with it — without weighing things down. It will take some more work from Pharrell to lift it all up, but this is just the start.

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