Pharrell Williams Takes Over Paris For Fashion Debut

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On Tuesday, several of Paris’ most historic areas will be closed off for the inaugural catwalk presentation by US celebrity Pharrell Williams in his new post as artistic director for Louis Vuitton.

The singer-producer is expanding his portfolio by taking over menswear designs for the world’s most profitable business, which produced more than 20 billion euros ($22 billion) in revenue last year.

His premiere is the hottest ticket of the season, scheduled for late at night on the Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge in Paris, with people expected to observe the catwalk from boats on the Seine.

A whole stretch of the riverbank is being cordoned off — from the bridge up to the Concorde plaza — from the early afternoon, a police source told AFP.

Guests received their elaborate invitations on Monday — a sort of mini-stained glass window featuring a sunset over the bridge that suggests yellow will be a dominant colour, in keeping with the singer’s “Happy” vibes.

He told the New York Times this week that the theme is “lovers”.

“I was appointed to rule in this position,” he told the newspaper. “But a ruler of this position for me is a perpetual student. It’s what I intend to be.”

– ‘Sells culture’ –
“We can expect a commercial hit — it’s not just one of the most highly anticipated collections of fashion week but a very significant moment in fashion history,” said Alexandre Samson, of Paris fashion museum Palais Galliera.

Many labels have moved away from the big-name designers of the past like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld, preferring more discreet professionals.

But Louis Vuitton is going the other way, putting a full-blown celebrity in charge.

It follows its last show in January when a performance by Spanish pop superstar Rosalia was almost more of a focus than the clothes on the runway.

It is “consistent with LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault’s idea that Louis Vuitton does not sell handbags but sells culture”, said bank HSBC in a briefing note.

“The nomination is obviously not just relevant for menswear… but targeted for a greater halo effect that could resonate to all core lines of the brand.”

The 50-year-old Williams nonetheless faces a major challenge filling the shoes of Virgil Abloh, the former Kanye West sidekick who breathed new streetwear-infused life into Louis Vuitton prior to his tragically early death from cancer in 2021.

But he has long been a red carpet sensation, known for daring outfits that go far beyond the usual hip-hop stylings, and a string of collaborations with Chanel, Moncler and Tiffany — as well as Louis Vuitton.

“Pharrell has always been ahead of clothing trends, in terms of music as well… it will be interesting to see how he uses his flair for innovative artistic projects,” said Pierre Alexandre M’Pele, editor of GQ France.

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