Inside Pharrell Williams’ First Year With Louis Vuitton And His Debut Spring/Summer 2024 Collection

In his inaugural showcase for Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2024 Men Collection, creative director Pharrell Williams took inspiration from the sun, adopting it as a guiding light and focal point to empower individuals across cultures and creeds. The sun’s influence resonated across the entire collection, manifesting in graphic rays, warm palettes and the effulgent surface trimmings on garments and accessories. When asked about his approach to creating his first collection and show for the maison, Williams recognised the transformative impact of being selected for such an opportunity. “In moments like this, when you’ve been chosen to do something, the sun is shining on you,” Williams says. “If I’m going to get this appointment, I’m going to use it to do two things: one, to share all my learnings as a perpetual student, and two, to share my love and appreciation.”

Coming from a background where access and windows were deliberately restricted, Williams acknowledges this changing narrative and what it means to the culture with his appointment at Louis Vuitton. “I’m very honoured be part of this. When I say the sun is shining on me, it’s shining on all of us,” Williams says. “This is a French house, but they went right back to America, found another Black man, and gave me the keys.” He also traces the evolution of his personal relationship with Louis Vuitton, initially introduced through rappers and Dapper Dan’s after-market creations in Harlem in New York City. At the outset, Williams perceived this as something out of reach as he thought the designs were simply on another level; however, his trajectory shifted when he entered the music industry and crossed paths with Marc Jacobs in 2004 who requested for a joint collaboration with Japanese fashion designer Nigo on the Millionaire sunglasses. Subsequently, in 2008, Williams was invited by chairman and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton, Pietro Beccari to design a jewellery collection—this ultimately marked the beginning of William’s deeper involvement with fashion. “My first foray into fashion was because of Marc’s generosity, and it only grew from my relationship with Pietro,” he reflects. “Over the years, we stayed in touch. When Pietro offered me the job, I was excited—not only for the job but also to work with him again.”

The show took place on Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, along with the ever-present backdrop of the nearby Louis Vuitton studios—this setting epitomised a metaphorical link between Paris and Virginia, Williams’ home state. The unfolding narrative encapsulated the journey from his early education at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach to his memories of Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, as well as his association with Beccari. In Williams’ show notes, he paid a heartfelt tribute to “the giant before me”, referring to the late American fashion designer Virgil Abloh. “Virgil has always been a brother in spirit. Now, that is literally what we work with here. He left a lot of hits with the House.” Reflecting Abloh’s journey, Williams stresses the importance of his and Abloh’s presence in inspiring children who look like them, affirming the message that they, too, can achieve anything and be anything.

The collection revolves predominantly around the concept of LVERS within Louis Vuitton’s LV universe, signifying a shared appreciation for curation and cultural affinity among those who value the brand. The LVERS emblem is also attributed to Williams’ home state slogan, ‘Virginia for lovers’, while a revived Marque L.Vuitton Déposée logo from the archives appear throughout the collection. “The humans who buy and wear Louis Vuitton have five modes: dandy, for business and events; comfort, suitable for home or casual outings; resort, when you’re on the beach; sport, for working out; and finally, the core staples of the House,” Williams explains. With this approach, he plans to evolve with each new season.

Damoflage is seen as a notable component in this collection as it pays homage between two distinct realms of style—Louis Vuitton’s Damier pattern and camouflage. This pattern is featured in three different hues, extending across trinkets, workwear, indigo denim, pyjama silhouettes, furs, and tailoring jacquards. Williams’ choice to incorporate Damier patterns as a central element was driven by an intention to leave a lasting impact, as he ascertained the historical dominance of the brand’s monogram. Having personal involvements with Damier items, Williams decided to leverage its grid-like chessboard setup as a canvas for exploring various creative techniques. His artistic vision takes shape in treating the blocks akin to eight-bit video game graphics, collaborating with pixel artist ET for this endeavour. “I wanted to make a print that makes people say, ‘Okay, that’s P. And That’s Damier,” he says.

A fresh interpretation of the Speedy bag is also captured in this collection, as Williams took cues from the vitality of Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Originally a men’s canvas bag, the Speedy took on a new dimension when a smaller version was crafted in 1965. Williams was looking to transcend gender norms, envisioning the Speedy as a universally appealing accessory for all individuals. “I wanted to take something I felt would be unisex and just make a great bag for humans,” Williams says. “It is an everyday icon conceived for every walk of like.”

Louis Vuitton

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