It's a little bit hard to process what happened just a few hours ago on Paris' oldest standing bridge across the river Seine, Pont Neuf. It stands almost directly in the centre of the city, connecting the two sides of the banks together, and on Tuesday evening in Paris, it served as the backdrop for Pharrell Williams' debut collection for the Louis Vuitton Men's Spring 24 collection.
We gnawed at the bit for this debut for months. Since Williams' appointment was announced, after a bloated wait to discover who would succeed Virgil Abloh's untouchable legacy, after rumours and whispers and guess-who's, the day had finally come where we would see Williams birth a new era for the House.
No amount of distance from the action could block the energy that radiated off the bridge as the sky fell into evening and the bright, grid-like lights lit the check-painted cobblestone runway. The live choir, all dressed in cream silk gowns, stood against the lights as a sprawling list of some of the worlds most famous faces took their seats, all in support and anticipation of Williams' vision.
Upon the first exit it was fairly easy to tell that Bernard Arnault had made another smart choice. Williams has always been genius material, and witnessing his expression of this through the House of Louis Vuitton couldn't help but leave you feeling as though this was, in fact, going to be something to remember.
The opening look? Perhaps a small nod to Abloh's debut Spring 2019 Menswear collection, which saw a fully white double breasted suit come down the runway first. Here, it was subtly mirrored in a very "Pharrell" way. The double breasting was there, in the same luxurious and precise cut that Louis Vuitton is known to offer. But this time it was pared-back in a pale sage (the same sage in Abloh's first show from looks 21 through to 25), the knees cut off to reveal Bermuda shorts, tones of chocolate woven through in the neck tie, the pixelated wellington boots and irresistible, slouchy leather clutch tucked under the model's arm that sported a simple gold monogram.
The same pixelated print was then carried through, onto raincoats and leather jackets and suiting and trunks. It was even printed on a coffee cup sleeve used as a prop. There was, perhaps, an inkling that Williams would take this collection down a streetwear-heavy path. To pleasant surprise, the balance was close to perfect. Suiting was modernised in a way that didn't make it feel misplaced. Jackets were neat and fitted, some with mandarin collars, some in denim. Many of them in the House's signature Damier check print, which was enlarged and rendered in yellow and forest green and deep blues and reds and sprawled across trench coats and luggage and knitted beanies and leather ensembles.
Then came the lovers. A set of loudly printed jackets that came down the runway side by side, one a trench and one a bomber, Paris printed as the backdrop and the text "The Louis Vuitton Lovers Presents" scrawled across their chests.
As the last quarter of the show commenced, the choir started up, singing "joy" over and over to build the momentum. Duffel bags were introduced with their classic monogram, but updated in red and white, emerald green, bright orange, and blue. Thick white socks were scrunched and worn with Men's Mary Janes and loafers. Newsboy caps were spliced with berets that had "Lovers" patches stitched onto the front of them. Each detail somehow feeling so-very "Pharrell" and so very "Vuitton" at once, reflecting the parts of Williams' style that we have grown to know and love, while delving into the archives with institutional motifs and historic house codes.
There was a sense of chaos that happened after Abloh's death. Uncertainty was on everyone's lips and for many of us, it lead us to question the role of the celebrity designer. For who could possibly do his legacy justice if their genius wasn't levelled against his own? For Williams, in the finale, after all of the models had exited and he stepped onto the runway, followed by the entire Louis Vuitton atelier, it felt as though harmony had re-centred itself at Louis Vuitton, in the centre of Paris.
Watch the Louis Vuitton Men's Spring 24 show, below.