Chinese netizens react to Pharrell Williams' first Louis Vuitton show

    It was once shocking to have a fashion creative director with no formal design training helm a storied maison. But no idea stays new forever.
    Pharrell Williams will be hosting a Louis Vuitton pre-fall menswear show  in Hong Kong 30th November 2023. Photo: Pharrell Williams' Facebook
      Published   in Fashion

    Despite the fact that its name translates to “New Bridge,” the Pont Neuf is in fact the oldest bridge still standing in Paris, a fitting setting for Pharrell Williams’ debut menswear collection for Louis Vuitton.

    Ever since the music superstar was announced as the brand’s new creative director of menswear in February this year, the fashion industry has been buzzing about what his appointment means for fashion’s most storied labels: Is a superstar creative director whose celebrity nearly eclipses the brand itself the way of the future? Or, should brands lean into their heritage and let the clothes and house codes take center stage?

    According to Pharrell’s Spring/Summer 2024 menswear collection, which walked down Paris’ Pont Neuf on Tuesday, the answer is a bit of both — something that bridges both old and new.

    Pharrell opened the show with a series of militaristic, safari-inspired ensembles — a reference to a certain sense of discipline, Yves Saint Laurent’s famed safari collection, or the Louis Vuitton house’s foundation in travel? Maybe all three. But the opening looks served as an introduction to a pixelated take on camouflage print that appeared throughout the show. Pharrell is an artist of the digital era after all. He revolutionized the sound of modern music as one half of production duo The Neptunes.

    Pharrell's debut collection as the new Louis Vuitton Menswear creative director includes militaristic, safari-inspired ensembles. Photo: Louis Vuitton
    Pharrell's debut collection as the new Louis Vuitton Menswear creative director includes militaristic, safari-inspired ensembles. Photo: Louis Vuitton

    Like his LV predecessor, the late Virgil Abloh, Williams aligns himself not with fashion industry leaders, but their audiences. He is a “pupil,” according to a studded leather jacket he showcased on the new “skateboard” Instagram account that popped up a few days before the Paris show to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the LV menswear atelier. And as Williams told the New York Times and WWD prior to the show, he sees himself as the ultimate Louis Vuitton customer.

    The models, unsurprisingly then, wore many of Pharrell’s sartorial hallmarks: shorts as formalwear, flashy headgear, and diamond-encrusted glasses like the pair Pharrell himself has been donning from fellow LVMH brand Tiffany & Co. But it wasn’t all Pharrell cosplayers; a few female models walked down the Pont Neuf – which itself was draped in LV’s Damier Ebène checkerboard print, the less-flashy predecessor to the LV monogram — including Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede in an olive green leather shell and black dress pants.

    Liya Kebede and other female models walk down the Pont Neuf. Photo: Louis Vuitton
    Liya Kebede and other female models walk down the Pont Neuf. Photo: Louis Vuitton

    The LV show set the tone for a celebrity-studded Paris Fashion week, with Beyonce and Jay-Z sitting front row alongside Bernard Arnault. Chinese celebrities also snagged prime seats, such as actor Bai Jingting and singer Jackson Wang, helping the show makes waves on Chinese social media.

    On Weibo, the hashtag #LV Spring/Summer 24 Men's Fashion Show# has garnered more than 89 million views and over 107,000 discussions. Netizens viewed the clothes as somewhat immature given Pharrell’s lack of design experience, but wearable and likely sellable.

    “Pharrell retains some street style and you can see traces of Virgil, but he has added his own touch. As a result, it ends up being a bit disjointed. It seems like an attempt to break boundaries but not entirely successful,” said Weibo user @胖不溜秋斯密达.

    But Pharrell knows where the money lies for luxury fashion houses: accessories. Bags were at the forefront of the collection. An array of primary-colored LV Speedy bags, first seen in the campaign starring a pregnant Rihanna unveiled a few days before the show, appeared along with numerous other bags large and small, including stacks of LV trunks that were displayed up and down the Pont Neuf in golf carts.

    “Although it's a bit chaotic overall, there are many attractive individual pieces, and the bags should sell well,” said Weibo user @ManicBee.

    Being a Pharrell show, music naturally came to take center stage. A live orchestra opened the show before transitioning to a rap track. But the stars of the soundtrack were Voices of Fire, the gospel choir led by Williams’ uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams, which gave a live performance of its Pharrell-produced track Joy.

    Both the upbeat rendition of Joy and Pharrell’s bowing to the menswear atelier at the end of the show recalled much of the Abloh spirit: the sheer excitement at being a fashion lover invited to go backstage.

    It was once a shocking idea that a powerful fashion brand should have a creative director untrained in clothing design like Abloh or Pharrell. But like the Pont Neuf, nothing stays new forever. The ideas that last long enough will one day become classic.

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