Pharrell Williams didn’t just happen to be in Paris. He claimed that it was an act of divine intervention for him to become the creative director of Louis Vuitton men’s clothing. He said this just a few hours before his Tuesday debut show in Paris: “It does something to you when God comes through and blindsides you with a blessing that you didn’t see coming.” According to him, he was “electrified by excitement.” Awe and shock.

Williams showed that he is humble by wearing a blue blazer over a white T-shirt and jeans with a pixelated version of Vuitton’s famous damier check that looked like camouflage (which he has dubbed “damoflage”). Grateful. And just as surprised as the rest of the fashion industry to find him here.

Numerous people were mentioned in the media as potential successors to Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Vuitton who forever redefined the boundaries of aspiration in luxury fashion and inspired countless teenage boys along the way. The brand is the LVMH empire’s crown jewel, with a record revenue of 20 billion euros (about $22 billion) last year. While Nicolas Ghesquière’s womenswear dominates sales, the brand’s menswear is an influential pop culture force. Williams’ appointment was met with ambivalence due to the fact that a celebrity, regardless of how admired his taste was, was entering the exclusive realm of fashion designer. Despite the fact that he had a long-term relationship with Chanel and started the streetwear label Icecream in 2003, Williams was not speculated as a candidate.

All things being equal, he was culled by means of text by Alexandre Arnault, the 31-year-old child of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault who is assisting with redoing Tiffany and Co. as a foundation of millennial culture with Incomparable and Nike collabs and a mission fronted by Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The appointment of Williams reflects not only the celebrity status of fashion but also the way millennials view reinvention, creativity, luxury, and aspiration.

Williams, 50, combines mysticism and pragmatism in his speech, speaking fluently and intuitively about the lifestyle and requirements of Vuitton customers. Williams’ response was lofty and shrewd when one reporter asked if the show would pay tribute to Abloh. He began, “I collaborated with him on a few spiritual projects.” Even though he is now in the sky with the stars, his energy is still very much… here. Using the abbreviation “stock keeping units,” which is typically used in nitty-gritty discussions about retail rather than runway concepts, “there are a couple SKUs in there where absolutely I have to nod to my brother.”

To put it another way, Williams thinks like a consumer but in a wilder way. He is the kind of person who enters a store and asks, “But why can’t I have that?” Brands used to rely on celebrities to translate their wildest fantasies into something that could be consumed on the concert stage or red carpet. Williams combines those two roles into a single one, which represents the culmination of the idea that the customer is always correct: In the end, the designer is the customer.

There is a show that reflects the fashion industry’s values every few years. Because of its enormous impact, other brands and creative directors have copied the textures for subsequent seasons; It can change how clothing looks, even down to the products on Amazon and Shein, where its knockoffs are sold, or what twenty-somethings and thirtysomethings care about. For instance, in 2017, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme under the creative direction of Kim Jones, who is currently in charge of Dior menswear. Although this may now seem quaint even to casual fashion fans, the unprecedented combination of a secretive streetwear brand and the exclusive world of French craftsmanship ushered in an era of collaboration mania.

Then in 2018, Abloh made his acting debut in the role that Williams now plays. That moment marked the end of fashion as a set of ideas managed by White executives who simultaneously looked to Black culture’s tastes for inspiration while only reluctantly acknowledging its consumers. In Abloh’s show, the runway became a yellow brick road and the designer became a wowed and mischievous student in a surreal world, proving that fashion could have both a muse and a maker. When Abloh began working with London-based stylist Ib Kamara, who now leads Abloh’s brand Off-White, in 2020, that position transformed into a full-throated promotion of the tastes, whims, and aspirations of Black men. Kamara was born in Sierra Leone.

The first couture show by Balenciaga, in July 2021, was probably the last of its kind; Since then, runway designers from Prada to Tory Burch have echoed its ladylike, mid-century panache, either knowingly or unknowingly.

The Vuitton debut Williams made was just like that. There were bits of hearsay that the Obamas would appear, that Rihanna would perform. The truth was not dissimilar to the rumor: As we all got on a boat in the Seine, we saw a huge billboard outside the Musée d’Orsay with Rihanna on it in Williams’s first house ad. With her coffee cup raised in the air like Lady Liberty’s golden lantern, the singer resembled the Statue of Liberty. Rihanna would light the way as Williams led us into a new fashion world!

We were taken by boat to the Pont Neuf, one of Paris’s most picturesque bridges, covered in a damier check in honey-gold. As folksy accordion renditions of Paris classics like “Sous le ciel de Paris” played, the sun began its pink descent, lighting up the city. It resembled AI almost to the point of being cartoonishly Parisian in its vividness.

The bridge was filled with famous people, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Zendaya, LeBron James, Tyler, the Creator, and Kim Kardashian. After the runway show wrapped, I watched Jay-Z play out his greatest hits sandwiched between previous English Vogue supervisor in boss Edward Enninful, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. It seemed more like Graydon Carter’s Oscar party than a style show — an encounter difficult to stream simply. ( Despite the fact that the Arnault family may be considering a significant streaming concept.) Williams mastered the falsetto when he appeared on stage to perform with Jay-Z for the song “I Just Wanna Love U.”

How many other fashion brand creative directors are capable of doing that? Fashion and popular culture have come to feel interchangeable over the past two decades, but this was a new level of closeness. An idea or designer no longer works as a niche fascination, occasionally becoming the star of a famous musician or powerful editor. Everything is immediately available to everyone. The person who exemplifies a culture’s values is no longer the celebrity.

We asked everyone the philosophical question, “Man, what will you do when the sun is shining on you?” Williams thought about it earlier in the day. I decided to express my love and appreciation for this opportunity, as well as my belief that a person of my appearance can do this again.

Is Williams capable of running a fashion house? It was nearly impossible for him to fail with a studio as skilled as Vuitton’s. Despite this, his attire was straightforward and commercial, consisting primarily of sportswear and suiting that utilized the damier check, a print that has established Vuitton as a mainstay on Canal Street. Williams’ models resembled archetypes like banker, hustler, student, and fashion nerd, like Abloh’s, but his buzzed with more obvious desirability than Abloh’s. He is aware that all of his clothing and bags are products. He extolled the virtues of bags, which continue to drive the luxury market.) The Williams approach was exemplified by his soundtrack, which included a gospel song, a film score, and songs by Clipse (the brothers Pusha T and No Malice, who also walked the runway). an admiration for hip-hop culture, a vast Hollywood ambition, and then “joy, joy, joy.”

He stated that the LV logo represented “love.” And the question is whether you value life or the finer things in life. Are you a fan of outings and expeditions? And if you are, we will design accordingly.”

Even though there were a lot of celebrities at the show, there were also a lot of customers, the kind of people whose extravagant spending habits get invited. You look worn out. But you look expensive,” one woman in a Vuitton bag and pants designed by Yayoi Kusama said to another in a pale blue suit designed by Abloh. With a massive Vuitton bag shaped like an airplane, another woman kept hitting other showgoers by accident. Everyone is in this for the same person!” cried a woman in a gold Vuitton crop top as her husband took a selfie in a fur Vuitton monogram-print vest. It is not difficult to envision a scenario in the not-too-distant future in which the garments worn on the runway function similarly to merchandise for a fantastic experience at a fashion show.

“From pushing the damier all the way to working with a Black American artist, a painter by the name of Henry Taylor,” he stated, Williams feels obligated to emphasize Black culture in his new position. He embroidered pieces with Taylor’s portraits and substituted the faces of Taylor’s friends for some of the stars and flowers on the LV monograms. Being able to do that and seeing black faces lined up like a monogram is a gift. However, it is also possible that it is not as valuable, and that he is unperturbed by the commodification of individuals or identities, provided that the appropriate identities are being commodified by the appropriate creator.

Similar issues arise in the aforementioned commercial, which he released last week and featured Rihanna. In it, she shows her belly and is surrounded by Speedy handbags—the house’s most popular bag for nearly two decades. He stated, “It’s not lost on me that I’m afforded this opportunity to tell these stories.” “To have a campaign with one of the biggest icons on the planet who happens to be a Black woman with a child, Rihanna,” he said.

In the end, Williams’s arrival solidifies the fashion industry’s shift away from taking risks and toward empowerment and affirmation. His ability to wear crazy things, like a huge Vivienne Westwood hat, pearls, and painted nails, as well as his ability to produce and perform, contributed to his own fame. One useful definition of fashion is repeatedly, insistently, or even obnoxiously, taking a risk until everyone else does the same. Williams sees it as implying that you are powerful and respected by a large corporation.

Is that wonderful or ominous? Perhaps both. I thought of Wes Anderson as I watched all these slick travelers, lanky tastemakers, and dandies. His new movie, “Asteroid City,” has been well received, but his mannered, slightly absurdist style has recently become a TikTok meme.

Although his films make the argument that a well-articulated aesthetic and a respect for it are the foundations of humanism, Anderson is frequently accused of being too twee and too white. It’s not that everything should look the same; rather, everyone should be beautiful. Beauty demonstrates self-respect as well as respect for others. (Including enemies.)

I realized that Williams is suggesting that the Louis Vuitton logo is a symbol of civility and gentleness as I watched the models flood the runway for the finale, including Pusha T and No Malice in matching luxe versions of souvenir jackets, designer Stefano Pilati in a white cardigan jacket, and men in leather logo-print jogging suits and pearl-encrusted track jackets. It is a sign that you belong to a club dedicated to graciousness to wear it, to dress in Williams’ exquisite taste.

The question is not whether Williams is capable of fashion design or product creation. He understands better compared to anybody on the planet what to purchase and why you ought to get it.

Instead, the question is whether Williams will be able to persuade the entire world that a logo for a company can actually mean everything he claims it can. Can the world be changed by good taste?

Topics #Celebrity #Fashion #Louis Vuitton. #Pharrell Williams