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Paris Men's Fashion Week: Pharrell Williams kicks off glitzy event

US artist Pharrell Williams poses for photographers during a photo call, outside Selfridges, in London, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.
US artist Pharrell Williams poses for photographers during a photo call, outside Selfridges, in London, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Copyright Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The pop sensation, who was named creative director of Louis Vuitton's menswear wing in February, debuted his first collection in the City of Lights

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Paris Men’s Fashion Week is back with a bang in the City of Lights with perhaps the most eagerly awaited show in a long, long time. 

Although it's just started, it seems to be a veritable return to its pre-Covid glory days and nights with the proceedings kicking off with a star turn - namely Pharrell Williams, the newly installed head of menswear at Louis Vuitton.

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Pharrell Williams poses following his debut show for Louis Vuitton's menswear wingAP

The 50-year-old musical superstar presented his first ever runway show since his appointment at the fashion house was announced back in February.

The music producer and 13-time Grammy award winner took over the role of artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection, succeeding the late Virgil Abloh, the jack-of-all-trades artist who skillfully married luxury and streetwear. He died at the age of just 41 at the end of 2021.

Williams is a mainstay of the front rows of catwalks and often hailed as a style icon. He has also already collaborated with other top fashion brands including Moncler and Adidas - and, of course, Louis Vuitton.

Christophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Models wear creations for Louis Vuitton's Men's Spring/Summer 2004 fashion collectionChristophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Christophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
A model wears a creation for Louis Vuitton's Men's Spring/Summer 2024 collectionChristophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Christophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Checks in various colours were the hallmark of the Vuitton Men's Spring/Summer showChristophe Ena/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Speaking at the time of the pop sensation’s appointment the CEO of the French fashion house, Pietro Beccari, said, “I am happy to see Pharrell return home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 2008. His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton to a very exciting new chapter”.

Williams, known for hits such as 'Happy' and 'Get Lucky', has also collaborated with Chanel and has a number of his own fashion brands including Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream.

His debut show is arguably the main attraction of this iteration of Fashion Week and it’s likely to be a nerve wracking time for the singer as well as Pietro Beccari, who only took over as CEO in January. 

When the news broke that the multi-talented Williams had bagged one of the top jobs in the menswear industry, some critics were quick to judge his apparent lack of experience in fashion. However, he’s long been a style icon, topping countless best dressed lists and his work with big names including Chanel, Nike and Timberland has been well received.

LVMH’s parent company recently became the first European entity to pass $500 billion in value and, to that end, Vuitton can only increase its worth - and popularity - with the help of a true charismatic showman, capable of creating a blockbuster show to be commented on in all circles.

It seems Williams is perfect for that brief, especially as the boundaries between fashion design and entertainment become increasingly blurred.

WWD/Getty
Reimagined Damier prints were one of the stand outs on the runwayWWD/Getty

The location for the star-studded event, though, was spectacular all by itself, even without the addition of Williams and his designs. The fashion house chose the iconic Pont Neuf with its stunning views of the Seine and the Ile de la Cité.

The vast majority of fashion critics have praised his debut, which featured a vast array of contrasting outfits, with something to appeal to everyone. Designs ranged from boxy, neutral-coloured jackets with tailored shorts to baggier, more relaxed items. Pearls were a common theme alongside military-style chains and the brand’s iconic print took on several different iterations throughout the collection.

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Best dressed man - sharp tailoring and 'Dior lover' insignia featured heavily throughout the showGamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The reimagination of the print was a nod to his predecessor Abloh, who had debuted pixelated-looking Damier prints in 2018. Williams expanded on that idea, using the technique from bags to apparel, with themes such as camouflage, yellow patterns and distressed three-dimensional designs.

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Some trunks were so large they had to be driven down the runwayGamma-Rapho/Getty Images

He also made a big deal out of bags, showing everything from small crossbody numbers to vast trunks; Williams has previously spoken of his desire to make his “presence known” in bags.

The entire collection was a rejection of the current trend for so-called quiet luxury, which has seen the mega rich reject logos and obviously expensive pieces in favour of muted, yet still very pricey, garments. 

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Zendaya poses ahead of Williams' debut showGamma-Rapho/Getty Images
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A listers up front - Jared Leto and Kim Kardashian were in attendanceGamma-Rapho/Getty Images
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Musical superstar couple Jay Z and Beyonce supported WilliamsCorbis/Getty Images

While the Damier print-attired Williams was no doubt the star of the show, he had support from Hollywood friends too. As he took his final bow on the runway, he was watched by A-listers including Rihanna, Zendaya, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, to name but a few.

Although he'd possibly like to put his feet up after such a glittering event, the rest of Fashion Week is set to be extremely busy for Williams. Alongside the Vuitton show, he’s set up a pop-up café in The Broken Arm boutique, based around the Samba Humanrace sneaker as well as taking part in an auction at his own auction house Joopiter.

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‘Just Phriends’, will offer up a collection of works of art from Takashi Murakami to Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, which will be on show in Paris throughout the week before going on sale.

Williams will also host a glitzy dinner to celebrate twenty years of his brand Billionaire Boys Club brand, which he founded with Nigo, the creative director of Kenzo.

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Pharrell Williams receives a standing ovation from his team and the audienceCorbis/Getty Images

Despite Williams’ dominance over the week, which runs until 25 June, the event boasts a packed programme, bringing together some 80 labels with 38 presentations and 42 fashion shows as well as a collective show by graduates of the Institut Français de la Mode.

In contrast to London’s relatively tiny June Fashion Week, Paris’ edition plays host to a vast array of top names in the industry, Alongside them, all the big names will be present, including Dior, Hermès, Givenchy, Loewe and Kenzo, to name but a few.

As well as the shows and presentations, there will be a series of events hosted by labels including Louboutin and Acne Studios and a new Valentino boutique will officially open on Avenue Montaigne.

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Adding to the roster of established fashion houses, two new names will debut their first catwalk collection. Turkish Burc Akyol, a finalist in this year's LVMH Prize will show his demi-couture collection and the brains behind Koché, Christelle Kocher, will unveil her designs at the star-studded event.

While Men’s Fashion Week officially comes to a close on Sunday, ever-popular brand Jacquemus are once again proving their non-conformist nature; they’ll present their latest collection 'Le Chouchou' the following day, June 26, at the stunning Palace of Versailles.

Headed up by Simon Porte Jacquemus, the fashion house is following in the footsteps of giants including Dior and Chanel, who have also used the magnificent venue in the past as a backdrop to presentations of their collections. In choosing the palace, it’s thought that Jacquemus is aiming to position itself in an increasingly upmarket segment of the fashion industry.

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