Pharrell Williams had an enormous impact on the fashion industry even before his appointment to his current position as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. Because of that, all industry eyes were on his debut show Tuesday, held on the opening day of Paris Men’s Fashion Week, and they’ll also be watching his future shows for the brand to see how he plans to market his personal style to a luxury consumer. There’s no shortage of celebrity-fronted clothing lines, and with good reason. Stars can bring in consumer dollars, and LVMH has been courting that kind of alliance for a few years now.
This week’s event was also livestreamed on YouTube and had over 6.9 million views at press time, and the soundtrack featured music by Williams, Clipse and Voices of Joy, the latter of which is a choir helmed by Williams’ uncle and featured in a 2020 Netflix series.
Williams was seen as a controversial choice when his appointment was announced earlier this year, in part because Williams lacks the traditional design background of some other creative directors in the fashion world. Virgil Abloh, who died in late 2021, held the title of artistic director at Louis Vuitton menswear — different from Williams’ title, though the distinction has not been made clear. Abloh was a self-taught designer whose fashion credentials included a finalist nod for the LVMH prize in 2015, plus his groundbreaking work as the founder of Off-White, which launched in 2012, had its first womenswear show in Paris in 2014, and was the subject of a museum retrospective in 2022, following the designer’s death.
By contrast, Williams' status as a designer has often competed with or been overshadowed by his work as an entrepreneur, producer, musician and philanthropist. His Billionaire Boys Club line, co-founded in 2003 with Japanese designer Nigo, has always benefited from the halo effect of his celebrity, it has also been inextricably linked to Williams’ role as a public figure rather than a designer in the strictest sense of the word.
Now Louis Vuitton may get a similar advantage, although it’s unclear if the $23 billion French company needs Williams’ star power. Nonetheless, his debut show for the brand — played out as an homage to both his own style and Abloh’s previous collections for the brand — was a master class for fashion industry executives in how to merge showmanship and celebrity in a play for younger luxury customers.
Here are five trends from the collection that will drive menswear looks next year.
Men’s tailored shorts have moved from fad to trend, and Williams’ offered a flowy, knee-grazing option that felt like upgraded basketball shorts, skirted bottoms that called back to Abloh’s designs, and more sedate Bermuda-style options. Although the look featured heavily in Thom Browne’s school uniform-inspired spring-summer 2023 collection, shown last year, Williams himself has been sporting formal shorts for years, so his inclusion of the calf-baring bottoms was a strong indication of how his personal style will continue to drive the Louis Vuitton brand and larger menswear trends moving forward.
Camouflage has long been a staple in streetwear and in Williams’ wardrobe on and off the red carpet. For 2024, he mixed it up with Louis Vuitton’s classic Damier check for a pixelated 8-bit “damouflage” print that echoed Abloh’s 2019 Graphite Damier Pixel pattern and appeared on everything from classic LV trunks to suiting and denim. The digitized motif also echoed the larger metaverse-influenced styles coming out of fashion’s flirtation with all things virtual.
Bag (and Hat) Man
Williams' personal style has been associated with hats since he sported the now-iconic mountain hat at the 2014 Grammy Awards. He also loves handbags, and has co-designed several over the years. It makes sense that accessories would be a big part of this collection, as they had been at Abloh’s shows for the brand. Crossbodies, backpacks and duffels of all sizes were paired with elongated trapper hats, exaggerated newsboys, beanies and ballcaps. There were also plenty of stylized sunglasses. These small but impact-making statement pieces will likely turn up in streetwear, high street and luxury wardrobes for several seasons.
In service to Williams’ love of pearls, brooches and all things Chanel, there was plenty of sparkle on display. Pearls dripped from tracksuits, sunglasses, beanies and even models’ hair, and lug-soled t-strap Mary Janes were paired with cropped jackets and slouchy cargo socks. Considering the mix of celebrities in attendance and a possible move toward gender-neutral award shows, these looks could make the leap from runway to red carpet to prom and wedding season on the backs of fashionistas regardless of gender.
Finally, Williams’ accented his mostly-muted palette with pops of color, including a red suit, a purple outfit featuring matching shorts and a jacket, and some Pelle Pelle inspired pieces that practically sang out with bright shades of blue and mint. But the real showstoppers were in Abloh’s signature yellow, as seen on bags and two eye-popping, floor length coats that will likely remain highlights of the show and the Paris menswear season.