Last week, history was made. On June 20th, 2023, as the sun set in Paris, the world's biggest names in fashion and entertainment watched Pharrell William's vision for Louis Vuitton come to life.
The fashion industry, known for its constant change and fast pace, often sees new creative directors taking over top fashion houses. These individuals are often unfamiliar names or have previously worked in other fashion houses, either as creative directors or in other roles. It is rare for celebrities to assume prominent roles in fashion houses' creative direction. However, there was a remarkable exception in a Parisian fashion powerhouse when Pharrell Williams stepped into the vacant creative director position at Louis Vuitton.
Following the passing of the previous visionary leader of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, there was much speculation about the brand's future. How could such an influential and innovative figure, not only within the brand but in the larger fashion world, be replaced? It was a seemingly impossible task. Everyone knows that there will never be anyone quite like Abloh, although traces of his brilliance and design continue to influence us. He inspired millions and revolutionized the fashion landscape by blending streetwear and high fashion, as well as his unwavering commitment to the inclusion of Black culture. It's safe to say that his departure left behind a significant void.
However, fashion enthusiasts did not anticipate someone as renowned as Pharrell Williams, or any major celebrity for that matter, to step into those shoes. Pharrell became the second Black creative director at Louis Vuitton, succeeding Abloh. The news came as a surprise, igniting curiosity among fashion lovers worldwide. All eyes turned towards Pharrell, eagerly anticipating what he would bring to the brand. The hype surrounding his appointment reached a boiling point, with social media buzzing about Pharrell's billboard featuring Rihanna, his star-studded guest list, and sneak peeks of the venue at Pont Neuf Bridge. The anticipation was palpable as everyone awaited the unveiling of Pharrell's spectacular vision, expected to surpass all other collections showcased in Paris.
With the harmonious swells of a choir in the background, Pharrell sent forth his collection down a long golden runway like it was set in the streets of heaven. Down came the models cloaked in garments that told stories of Pharrell's life with inspiration derived from homes of his past in Virginia and present in Paris. From the rapper's youth amongst the forests of Virginia come varsity jackets encrusted with pearl embellishments, black leather loafers paired with crew socks, and reimagined camouflage patterns. From his current home in Paris come homages to his personal styles, such as an array of exaggerated hats, monochromatic denim and leather ensembles, and oversized and sleek formalwear with luxe hints of grandeur. Classic Louis Vuitton bags, such as their travel Keepall bags, in a display of loud colors and sizes, hugged the models closely.
Pharrell's goal remained similar to Abloh's: bringing cultural history to the collection. However, Pharrell also seamlessly sprinkled a teaspoon of the fashion house's rich history into his collection. Sure, the designs stay true to the recognizable monogram and Damier patterns we know and love about the brand, but the construction of it all screamed that a new wave at Louis Vuitton was fast approaching. Brighter colors, louder prints, more contemporary fabrics, modern shapes, and silhouettes all combined to make a "refreshed" designer collection beyond anything previously imagined, with the bones of the brand still intact. Maybe hints of this new wave could have been picked up by Abloh's love of streetwear, which Louis Vuitton has dabbled in before, yet Pharrell has taken it to a new level. And by the end, it seemed no one could stop scratching their heads about the displays of pixelated camouflage that appeared to come straight out of Minecraft. Even Pharell himself shared his love for the contemporary print by choosing it as his finalé look.
The shock value of such a change in Louis Vuitton style has divided fashion connoisseurs and your average internet troll, igniting either a strong love for this collection or an even stronger disdain. It took several moments for my eyes to adjust, and despite the "gamification" of his clothes to resemble Roblox characters, I think Pharrell is on to something. His momentous entrance into such a position of influence has signaled a growing shift in the fashion landscape for the younger generations. Gone are the days when designers stayed traditional and stuck to what they knew. Here are the days where listening to the interests of new audiences is of the utmost importance, in Pharrell's case, the younger generations that want experimental and fresh designs to liven up their wardrobes and the world of fashion itself.
Watch the full show below.