Pharrell fuses entertainment and fashion for confident Louis Vuitton menswear debut

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    Designer Pharrell Williams accepts applause at the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2024 fashion collection presented in Paris, Tuesday, June 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    PARIS (AP) — Unveiling a new chapter in its illustrious history, Louis Vuitton made an indelible mark on Paris Fashion Week’s men’s shows as they premiered the debut collection by the acclaimed musician-turned-designer, Pharrell Williams. Appointed in February to fill the immense shoes left by the tragic departure of the late Virgil Abloh, Williams unveiled his design prowess to the fashion world with a show that exuded confidence and creativity.

    The breathtaking venue for this sartorial spectacle was none other than Paris’s iconic Pont Neuf. The historic bridge, typically resplendent with time-worn stone, was transformed into a golden runway — a dramatic stage set against the backdrop of the shimmering Seine, under the starlit Parisian sky.

    The event drew a constellation of stars in their own right, forming a stellar audience that encompassed icons of music, sports and entertainment. Among the guests lining the gilded cobbles were music royalty Beyoncé and Jay-Z, NBA superstar LeBron James, and global pop phenomenon Rihanna. Each added their own unique sparkle to the glitz and glamour of the occasion.

    Williams’ first show proved to be an ambitious endeavor, interweaving the luxury and sophistication of high fashion with the pulsating energy and broad appeal of pop culture and entertainment. This was more than just a runway presentation; it was an immersive experience that captured the imagination of those fortunate enough to witness it firsthand.

    The grand finale was a spectacular concert by Jay-Z. The electrifying performance brought the crowd to its feet, their excitement reaching a crescendo as Pharrell himself took to the stage to join his longtime collaborator.

    Here are some highlights of spring-summer 2024 shows:PHARRELL SPEAKS

    As the sunlight filled the storied halls of Louis Vuitton’s headquarters, Pharrell Williams stepped into his new role as the fashion house’s menswear designer. His appointment symbolizes more than a career shift. It represents a daring move by the luxury brand to entrust this position to a music artist and cultural influencer, not a classically trained designer. But for Pharrell, he doesn’t feel the pressure to prove himself – he was chosen for this role.

    “I didn’t feel any of that because if I was competing for it and people kept telling me, no don’t do it, I may have felt that way. But the difference is, I was chosen,” said Pharrell to a select group of reporters, including the AP. This sense of being chosen by the universe, or by Louis Vuitton, carries a sense of destiny for him. “So like when you’re chosen, you just kind of ride the wave,” he said.

    But stepping into the designer role isn’t just about fulfilling his personal destiny. Williams also feels that he’s carrying on the legacy of the late Virgil Abloh, the first black Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton and a personal friend. “My appointment is a tribute,” said Williams, who sees his work as a continuation of the journey Abloh began.

    The influence of Black culture, and the struggles the community has faced, is a strong driving force for Pharrell. He reflected on the unique flavor of American Black culture and its widespread appeal. “I think it’s something in the sauce,” he said. “And people like it when they try it.”

    Williams emphasized the hard-earned global recognition of this cultural “sauce,” exemplified in the influence of figures like LeBron James, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Prince, and Basquiat. “A lot of people lost their lives and suffered through the experiences to get us to these positions,” he noted, underscoring the painful history that fuels his desire to honor his community through his work at Louis Vuitton.

    Pharrell’s love for life, the moment, and opportunities, imbue his approach to design. “LV is for Louis Vuitton, but it’s also ‘lover’,” he mused. His interpretation of the Louis Vuitton initials signifies his intention to pour love and appreciation into his work, carrying the legacy of Black culture forward in a space where it has been historically underrepresented.

    Williams already has exciting plans in motion, including a collaboration with Black American artist Henry Taylor, featuring Black faces lined up like the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram. He also revealed a campaign featuring Rihanna, another influential Black artist. “It’s not lost on me that I’m afforded this opportunity to tell these stories,” he said.

    Despite his lack of a traditional design background, Pharrell Williams is stepping confidently into his new role at Louis Vuitton. Chosen by the brand and feeling no pressure to prove himself, he sees this opportunity as a chance to honor Black culture, carry on Virgil Abloh’s legacy, and share his love for life through design. His journey is one to watch, as he navigates the fashion world with his unique “sauce,” paying tribute to his roots and making his mark in high fashion.LOUIS VUITTON SHOW

    The pulse of Paris was set alight as music icon Pharrell Williams unveiled a debut fusing streetwear aesthetics into the French maison’s traditional lineage. The fashion show epitomized high-voltage energy, reverberating through the audience and culminating in a standing ovation for Williams.

    The world-renowned musician, known for his genre-blurring creativity, masterfully orchestrated an event that transcended the typical realm of a runway show. The roster of attendees read like a who’s who of the entertainment industry, underscoring the hotly anticipated occasion. Notably present were Beyoncé, new brand ambassador Zendaya, and Rihanna, whose arrival in sync with the show’s climax was nothing short of theatrical.

    Jay-Z’s live performance heightened the spectacle, electrifying audiences with concert-like energy. The event venue — on Paris’s oldest bridge draped in a gold Damier pattern — was a symbolic nod to the brand’s longstanding tradition, hinting at key elements in Williams’ debut collection.

    The runway show mirrored a music video’s high energy, perhaps a testament to the influence of parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s meteoric reach. Williams, an emblem of multifaceted artistry, had earlier hinted at his collection during his Virginia-based music festival, introducing “LVers,” a playful take on the state’s slogan, “Virginia Is for Lovers.”

    Playing on the LV codes, Williams’ collaboration with American pixel artist E.T. for a digital motif and the use of Henry Taylor’s micro-embroideries added a further dimension to his debut lineup. The collection was replete with pixelated designs on a broad spectrum of pieces, alongside the Damier pattern — which graces the house’s bags — amplified in shades of yellow and black.

    Channeling gender-fluid appeal, Williams showcased an exhaustive show spanning checkerboard-patterned denim to a sophisticated cream evening jacket. The line, marked by photo prints of the Pont Neuf and a uniquely designed coat with a shaved monogram motif, also underscored his flair for distinct aesthetics.

    As the show drew to a close, an emotional Williams emerged to take a bow, wiping away tears and pointing skyward in a heartfelt thank you. The applause that followed was a thunderous affirmation of the musician’s successful transition into the realm of luxury fashion.

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    AP-EU-France-Paris-Fashion-Week

    Jun 21, 2023 5:13 AM – 1189 words

    By THOMAS ADAMSON AP Fashion Writer

    Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos.

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    Cover Photo: Designer Pharrell Williams accepts applause at the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2024 fashion collection presented in Paris, Tuesday, June 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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