Pharrell Williams’ creative director debut Tuesday in Paris for Louis Vuitton menswear was a celebration of legacy, joy, and his Virginian roots. Ushering in the new era of menswear for the historic French fashion house, Williams shut down the Pont Neuf bridge for famous friends Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Megan Thee Stallion, and Louis Vuitton brand ambassador Zendaya who arrived with former stylist Law Roach. The show began at sunset and featured a full orchestra and gospel choir dressed in white. Over 70 looks were displayed, modeled by a wide sweep of creatives, including UK rapper Dave, and longtime collaborators Pusha T and No Malice of Clipse.
The extravagantly orchestrated runway show showcased distinct aesthetics that paid homage to Williams’ home state, his own fashion legacy and influences that helped inspire this season’s show. In a statement about the representation of the appointment, Williams added that this was about fulfilling his personal destiny while acknowledging the opportunity it has afforded him as a chance to celebrate his cultural legacy and home state of Virginia.
“A lot of people lost their lives and suffered through the experiences to get us to these positions. It’s not lost on me that I’m afforded this opportunity to tell these stories.” Those stories woven throughout the garments showcased during Tuesday’s show, also represent the 20-plus years of public influence within his own story.
It’s a task for someone with a storied history of dismantling the boundaries between hip-hop and couture, as Pharrell affirmed in the transition from iconic producer to legendary multi-hyphenate creative. It may not have been the show that officially showcases Pharrell as a respected designer and leaves much to be anticipated for what is to come next. But for hardcore Pharrell supporters and Neptunes nerds, it was a full-circle debut for a man whose pivot is centered around legacy — one that even Williams himself had to acknowledge.
Here are seven easter egg moments from Pharrell Williams’ Louis Vuitton Menswear Debut.
Homage to Virginia’s State Motto
The collection’s staple theme, VA TO PARIS, can be traced back to Williams’ colorfully bedazzled motorcycle jacket from this year’s Something In The Water festival. As Pharrell stated in a recent interview, “LV is for Louis Vuitton, but it’s also ‘lover’,” referring to the famous Virginia state motto. Several pieces in the show were embellished with the phrase “Virginia is for lovers” — from the custom LV shirts worn by the staff and design team to specific statement pieces such as the blue crocodile leather baseball jacket and floor-length overcoats worn by the Clipse.
Even the bridge-side location of the show represented the metaphorical link between Virginia and Paris.
Princess Anne High School Varsity Jacket and Marching Band
Pharrell used the collection and connection to Virginia to pay homage to his iconic Princess Anne Varsity Jacket that he often wore during the early 2000s. The letterman jacket was from Pharrell’s years at Princess Anne High School, where he was also in the marching band. During an unearthed video clip from a 2003 episode of the MTV show When I Was 17,When I Was 17, Pharrell spoke about the influence that the marching band had on him musically. The influence is shown clearly as the models and the collective finale were choreographed as a united strut.
The memorable varsity jacket was auctioned off late last year during Williams’ Joopiter auction of celebrated items, but for many, brings up extreme nostalgia, as an item often seen during N.E.R.D.’s Fly or Die era.
In his notes, Pharrell states, “The memory of Princess Anne High School is epitomised in savoi-faire takes on the varsity jacket.”
2000s BBC / BAPE Homage
Many called out the pixel camo concept as repetitive, but longtime fans see updated versions of Billionaire Boys Club and Bathing Ape works by Pharrell and Nigo. Pharrell even created a finsta-styled BTS page entitled Skateboard as a reference to his nickname Skateboard P where fans could have an inside look into the making of the collection. Nigo, whose signature BAPE pattern was often paired with Pharrell’s affinity for cargo, army fatigue pants and beanies, are highlighted in pixel-replicated garments.
New Clipse Record
Titled “Chains ‘n Whips,” Pharrell stated that the song was recorded in Paris in his space at the Louis Vuitton office. As Pusha T and No Malice walked the runway sporting Dapper Dan-inspired trench coats, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and more could be spotted nodding along to the presumed Jim Jones diss.
Footage of the song has since gone viral, including a clip released Wednesday morning, via P, of the superproducer, No Malice and Pusha rapping along to the song in the Louis Vuitton offices prior to the show. It didn’t take long for Pusha fans and hip-hop enthusiasts to call out the subliminal bars aimed at Jones following his claims that Pusha shouldn’t be considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Since the show, Jim has responded. Taking to Instagram to post a video of him laughing with the caption, “Let me know if they serious cause my name is #Capo,” and another video with the caption, “Lol that verse did not make the list champ, it was cute.”
Honoring Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld
With accents of pearls adorned on tweed jackets and the overt return of the Damier checkerboard aesthetic, much of P’s collection can be viewed as homages to his couture relationship with the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld and former Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs.
There’s a well-documented history between Lagerfeld and Williams which began in 2011. During this time, Williams served as a Chanel ambassador. Appearing in promotional short films, composing original music for runway shows and even launching a Chanel x Human Race sneaker collaboration for adidas.
However, it was Marc Jacobs who truly began Skateboard P’s ascent from streetwear to couture when he invited him and Nigo to partner on a range of sunglasses for Louis Vuitton called Millionaire Sunglasses. Many called out the checkerboard garments in Williams’ SS24 collection as a call back to Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week show in 2012 which featured an overwhelming collection of bold colorways via the classic checkerboard print. In a recent video released today, Pharrell revealed the name of his custom $1 million dollar Speedy bag featured during the show as “Millionaire” in reference to his designed LV sunglasses from the Marc Jacobs LV era.
Following Pharrell’s LV debut, Jacobs took to Instagram posting a photo of the two, simply stating, “believer since 2002.”
The Use of His Uncle’s Choir — Voices of Fire
Like the overplay of Damoflauge, some elements of the show felt redundant and overproduced. Voices of Fire, led by Williams’ uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams, sang “Joy (Unspeakable),” a piece composed by Williams for the show. This isn’t the first time Williams has worked with the choir. In 2020, Pharrell joined his uncle and other spiritual leaders in his hometown of Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach in search of talented singers to join a world-class choir.
In recent years, Pharrell’s spiritual evolution has led him to become more grounded and seemingly too humble. Much of the evolution he credits to wisdom through his friendship with Nigo and his family’s relationship with faith. To many, myself included, the choir element within the performance has been overdone within the fashion world, especially when designers such as Kirby Jean-Raymond have masterfully used choirs as motifs in shows. However, for Pharrell, the use of his uncle’s choir was an extension of his tribute to Virginia and his family roots. Pharrell’s mother is a devout Baptist, while his father’s side attended COGIC in Virginia Beach.
The Neptunes References
Though the night was centered around P’s influence and years of studying within the world of fashion, his musical imprint with Neptunes’ co-creator Chad Hugo lay in plain sight. Embellished on a few of the garments is the phrase “The Louis Vuitton Lovers Presents.” While the phrase does reference the Virginia state motto, it also references The Neptunes Present…Clones, Chad and Pharrell’s compilation album that turns 20 this year.
Following the finale with Pharrell and the Louis Vuitton design team, guests ventured onto the yellow checkerboard runway to The Neptunes’ remix of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stonger.” During the Louis Vuitton live stream, lyrics “Daft Punk, Neptunes” could be heard blaring over the crowd as a shot of the flashing Effiel Tower ended the show. While guests were treated to a special JAY-Z set that featured iconic Neptunes-produced songs like “Frontin” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).”