Pharrell Williams Makes a Big Impact with His Second Show for Louis Vuitton
Richard Gianorio - Madame Figaro
For his second collection presented for Louis Vuitton Men on Chinese territory, the American designer, elevated to superstar status, once again makes a strong impression with a spectacular show and an ultra-alluring preppy fashion.
Welcome to Hong Kong, a former British colony handed back to China, which, while it may not possess the youthful "cool" of Seoul - hailed as the new El Dorado for luxury brands - remains nonetheless the age-old gateway to the Asian world. It is this bay and city of fantasy since time immemorial that Pharrell Williams has chosen to present his second collection for Louis Vuitton men, following his stratospheric debut last June in Paris - a show on the Pont Neuf considered historic for its scale and impact.
Louis Vuitton is well established in Hong Kong: seven boutiques, the first of which was inaugurated in 1979 at The Peninsula hotel. However, the history between the trunk maker and China predates this: a Paris-Beijing expedition in 1907 and the famous yellow cruise of 1931, both journeys featuring LV-branded vehicles. Much later, China was one of the first countries to open up to Western luxury and to welcome the French brand, which has spread across the territory - 62 boutiques - and gained a solid understanding of this market in full reconquest. After a slowdown, the luxury market is restarting in China, and its local customers are once again consuming within their own borders.
Hong Kong as the setting for this Pre Fall 2024 show is not just a choice of imagery. It is obviously strategic and economic, sending a strong message to the Asian community, which was overrepresented on Thursday evening by stars and influencers from across the continent: primarily China, of course, but also Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and even Japan.
The front row alone represented millions of upcoming social media interactions through influential leaders - actors, pop stars, or powerful influencers: Felix, Song Joongki, Zhu Yilong, the group TNT, Dylan Wang, and Hins Cheung, not necessarily famous in France but immensely popular in this Pacific region. The only Frenchman, somewhat lost in this unique community of young people with manga doll-like looks, was Tahar Rahim, a solid actor who already has a foothold in Hollywood and smartly straddles between Marvel movies and more "auteur" films (he will portray Aznavour in a biopic directed by Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir, set for release in October 2024).
The show by Pharrell Williams, successor to Virgil Abloh, who was appointed at Louis Vuitton Men in February 2023, was expected to make a big impact, and it did. It took place on the Avenue of the Stars, a mythical 440-meter promenade along the waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui East and Victoria Harbour, with its picture-postcard beauty. This avenue, with its spectacular skyline of slender buildings reaching for the sky, is the epicenter of culture made in Hong Kong: over a hundred handprints of celebrities adorn the place. The weather was not particularly clement on Thursday evening, but the cloudy and overcast sky did not in any way alter the impressive decorum of illuminated "sky scrappers" outlining a perfect modern horizon of a megalopolis.
Pharrell Williams may not come from the world of fashion, but perhaps even better, he hails from a pop culture rooted in hip-hop, fed by a diverse array of urban influences. This "global" artistic director, known for his good taste, has crafted something unique. One might even be tempted to say that the second collection of this 50-year-old American with a youthful appearance surpasses his first. Consisting of sixty-four looks that are pop, preppy, streetwear but not overly so, tropical - think Hawaiian prints - and at times vintage - like the sailor caps from the 1950s American navy - the collection takes multiple directions while maintaining a very thoughtful, chic line: the bling touches, noticed in the first collection, have been largely toned down in favor of a clear, dynamic, elegant silhouette, appealing to Californians and Koreans alike, mainstream yet with a lot of originality. In short, once again, Pharrell Williams meets the imperatives of the era: he is truly multicultural and seems comfortable in all the universes he approaches.
At the end of this spectacular show, a thousand drones created figures in the milky sky: a constellation, a junk boat, and then these immense letters "LV Lovers." Pharrell Williams then appeared to take a bow: a superstar in a white double-breasted suit, sailor cap, and his signature small diamond-studded sunglasses. In procession with his models, united like a family, to an unreleased soundtrack composed by himself, Swae Lee, and Raul Alejandro - which should be a hit on Spotify and elsewhere - he embodied the power of a star system, here transposed into the world of fashion.
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