Pharrell Williams gives Louis Vuitton a Los Angeles edge


Los Angeles is a city that demands you go outside. The weather, the vibes and the ever-present feeling that anything is possible. The only things stopping you are time and traffic. The clothes we wear reflect that, from cargo shorts to open-toed sandals, camp collar shirts and tank tops. This is a place where romance can flourish, where meet-cutes can happen on a bench at Echo Park Lake or in line at Courage Bagels (if you haven’t thought about spitting game at Courage yet, give it a shot and report back to me). Pharrell Williams’s designs for Louis Vuitton are made for that romance, for the first flowerings of spring in L.A. and pretty much anywhere else you can think of that has a surplus of sunshine.

Model wears Louis Vuitton, a peppercorn bush behind her.

Los Angeles is a city that demands you go outside. Ren Leslie wears Louis Vuitton Men’s.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

Williams launched his first collection with LV last summer, and of course, thanks to the unceasing passage of time (and the needs of the luxury fashion industry), he’s already dropped his second collection. At his 2024 pre-collection show in Hong Kong, Pharrell added a wetsuit and surfboard, nodding back to L.A., to the unrestrained power of the ocean that we sometimes take for granted here. The digital “damoflage” suits, with their pixelated patterns, are modern interpretations of camouflage, a print designed to look like your natural surroundings. The pre-fall drop has a very clear through line back to the first flowerings of his tenure at Vuitton.

Two models wear Louis Vuitton denim outfits on a picnic blanket in the park.

Emily wears Louis Vuitton Men’s and Jennifer Le spiked mules. Ren wears Louis Vuitton Men’s, Hugo Kreit earrings, Prada shoes.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

If there is a word to encompass the ethos of Pharrell as a designer, it’s “romance.” The feeling of the impossible being possible. Whether that be naivety or merely unsullied optimism, it’s captured explicitly by the use of the word “lovers” all over the branding for his first collection. Bold flower prints, jaunty sailor hats, and a louche suiting mix with chunky boots and letterman jackets. It’s easy to see yourself going somewhere in these clothes, even if it’s to nowhere in particular.

A model wears a pixelated Louis Vuitton jacket in a park.

If there is a word to encompass the ethos of Pharrell as a designer, it’s “romance.” Ren wears Louis Vuitton Men’s.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

A black and white photo of a model in a Louis Vuitton jacket.

It’s easy to see yourself going somewhere in these clothes, even if it’s to nowhere in particular. Emily wears Louis Vuitton Men’s.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

All of that seems very European. The iconography of these clothes screams “Parisian youth,” with the Pont Neuf bridge having served as the backdrop for Pharrell’s LV coming out party last summer. The limited-edition Vuitton pop-up in West Hollywood that closes at the end of February is decked out to look like that glorious French setting, and the brand hand out posters of the bridge during the store’s opening-night party.

“Saltburn” star Barry Keoghan was the man of the hour at that party, and for good reason. There aren’t many actors in Hollywood today who embody the youthful contradiction of thoughtfulness and carelessness that define those years before you have a mortgage and mouths to feed besides your own. As “Saltburn” posits, in youth you can be anyone and everyone you want to be. You can carefully craft a persona for public consumption and do that over and over again until you find the image that fits. Of course, in “Saltburn,” that image ended up being a vampiric brat who drinks bathwater and plots to murder his only friend in the world. Hopefully when you were young, you picked something else to be.

Emily wears Louis Vuitton Men's, Hugo Kreit earings, TUK creepers. Ren wears Louis Vuitton Men's, New Rock sneakers.

Emily wears Louis Vuitton Men’s, Hugo Kreit earings, TUK creepers. Ren wears Louis Vuitton Men’s, New Rock sneakers.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

In the United States, the sense of personal discovery is something we often equate with Europe, and specifically cultural meccas like Paris. We have to go somewhere to find a semblance of truth. Louis Vuitton, as Pharrell has said before, is about travel. It’s a brand that is rooted in the experience of going on holiday thanks to its roots as a luggage company. Travel is freedom, and youth allows us to see a place with fresh eyes and no expectations of comfort. It’s about the experience, not the accommodations. Hostels exist for a reason, to open up the possibilities of travel to young adults with little to no disposable income. But LV is about the luxurious, the chic and the expensive. Somehow, Pharrell has managed to capture the feeling of exuberant, youthful exploration while also making the clothes very, very nice. In a way, he’s done that by merging the sensibilities of Paris and Los Angeles.

All right, so Los Angeles is not exactly Paris. First of all, Paris doesn’t have strip-mall sushi. And it’s almost always open season on bicyclists in L.A. Also, like most of us, I get my baguettes at a little place called Ralph’s. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Pharrell’s collection nods to the special humanity of this place we call home through his collaboration with artist Henry Taylor. Taylor contributed faces embroidered on the bags and jackets that were part of that first drop in Paris. The faces, unidentified by the artist, could be anyone. And that’s probably the point. These are the faces you might see as you move through the city. Any city, but certainly our city.

A model holds her arms out, wearing a Louis Vuitton jacket with Henry Taylor portraits.

Pharrell’s collection nods to the special humanity of this place we call home through his collaboration with artist Henry Taylor.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

L.A. is a city in thrall to the automobile and its power to transport you from point A to point B in absolute comfort — air conditioning, satellite radio and a capacious trunk to store a lot more than just a baguette. If I didn’t have a trunk to store miscellaneous junk and had to rely on a tote bag or the basket on a bike for on-the-go storage, I might consider taking a leap off the Pont Neuf.

Paris, on the other hand, offers the pleasures of the tactile experience of direct contact with your surroundings. Walk, bike, take the train. Travel on your own power, with the tools nature or God gave you. The car is our supreme signifier of adulthood. You have to have a lot of money to get one. You have to maintain it, buy insurance, and store it safely. It is a weapon when used recklessly. The car robs us of our innocence, and we can only recapture that by communing and reintroducing ourselves to the natural world.

In L.A., this is why we surf or hike or just lounge around in the park. We can live organically, if only for a moment. When we “touch grass,” we reintroduce ourselves to what it felt like to be young. To travel casually, to have nowhere to go and everything to do. That’s so much a part of what Pharrell is doing at Louis Vuitton — making us feel young again. Both Los Angeles and Paris can do that.

Two models embrace in a park.

So much a part of what Pharrell is doing at Louis Vuitton is making us feel young again. Emily wears Louis Vuitton Men’s, Poesie Veneziane loafer. Ren wears Louis Vuitton Men’s, Prada shoes.

(Da’Shaunae Marisa / For The Times)

Models: Emily Marte, Ren Leslie
Makeup: Leslie Castillo
Hair: Tanya Melendez
Styling Assistant: Carmen Madera

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