There was never any question, when Pharrell Williams made his debut at the helm of Louis Vuitton’s men’s division a year ago, that the creative polyglot could sell merch.
Making his Vuitton a brand so desirable that it would sell the required T-shirts, trainers and bags to keep profits booming was not going to be an issue (Williams has experience here via his logo-centric menswear brand Billionaire Boys Club, and successful collaborations with brands from Adidas to Moncler). The commercial nous (ironically the instinct many other traditionally-trained designers struggle to find) comes naturally to him.
It was as an artistic, storytelling designer that Williams needed to prove himself – could his talents translate into a catwalk point of view? Was Vuitton right to hire a ‘celebrity creative’, rather than a trained designer?
In Paris on Tuesday, Williams delivered a blockbuster collection that utilised all of the artistry available to him at the storied Parisian house and developed the narrative that he wants to take his audiences on journeys (apt, at the helm of a 170 year-old trunk maker).
The latest destination to inspire was Virginia (Williams’ home state) and from it he gave us a rodeo – one which nodded to the cowboy tropes we are all familiar with from Hollywood spaghetti Westerns, but which also celebrated lesser-told sartorial stories.
“When you see cowboys portrayed you see only a few versions,” Williams told the press after the show. “You never really get to see what some of the original cowboys looked like. They looked like us, they looked like me. They looked Black. They looked Native American.”
Artists from the Dakota and Lakota tribes contributed hand paintings and embroideries on bags, the Texas bootmaker Goodyear was consulted on boot designs, and a collaboration with Timberland yielded a new take on workman boots. Williams enlivened each outfit with intricate savoir-faire and layered styling.
From the double denim, to covetable new checks, these are the takeaway trends to note.
The new jeans
This show, naturally, offered Williams the chance to really explore his interest in denim. He brought back stonewashed and bootcut styles, sometimes layered with embroidered chaps over the top for a new spin on the ‘double denim’ concept. For his finale, Williams himself stepped out wearing a bootcut style, with an LV logo belt and a key charm hanging from its loop.
Embellished shirts and jackets were the standout pieces, styled with low-key tailored trousers and jeans. It’s a pairing that echoes womenswear’s favourite ‘jeans and a nice top’ formula – and it works to turn any casual look into something a bit smarter.
The terracotta suit
One of the sharpest looks was a suit in terracotta red. The colour had been offset with a turquoise-brooched Bolo tie. Any wedding guest who is sick of navy tailoring might note that this colour will be the next big thing in suits – fresh-feeling, and just as easy to wear.
Timberlands are back
There were no trainers in this collection – quite a statement from Pharrell the sneakerhead. Instead he focussed on boots, the collaboration with Timberland being his headliner. In updated proportions, with a subtle LV monogram on the side, expect these to become collectibles.
The red checks
Every man, everywhere, will be influenced by the new styles of plaid shown on Pharrell’s runway – whether they intend to be or not. The designer morphed the classic American workwear fabric with his signature take on Vuitton’s Damier print for a new ‘Buffalo Check’. He applied it to brushed flannel shirts, yes, but also to everything from jackets to trunks.