Pharrell’s Take on Louis Vuitton Gets Worse

This whole collection is a poorly executed bad idea, and its commercial success is doubtful.

Francois Durand/Getty Images
Pharrell Williams walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 16, 2024 in Paris. Francois Durand/Getty Images

Did you hear that cowboy boots are trendy? Last year they were, courtesy of TikTok-influencers who made flame-decorated riding boots a hit online. Pharrell Williams, one year into his role as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, clearly took notice.

The promise of combining his creative talent with the pedigree of Louis Vuitton has so far proven too good to be true. Pharrell’s first Louis Vuitton collection lacked any coherent theme, and only innovated in the realm of scandalous, stratospheric pricing — care for a baseball jacket priced at $153,000? His new Fall Winter 2024 runway show, presented on Tuesday, does have a theme, “cowboy style;” but this single idea is hit again and again and again, with little creativity, to ill effect.

The Louis Vuitton Fall 2024 Menswear – Look 47. Courtesy Louis Vuitton

This should have been superb; a great creative mind, renowned for his style, is given carte blanche at one of the great luxury houses. And yet, this collection resembles a bad fashion student’s corny graduation project, or an AI runway video of “what if Louis Vuitton made workwear?” It sounds like a bad joke, and in practice, is all the less pleasant, as models walked the runway in fringed leather jackets and knockoff Carhartt coats and belts with exaggerated gothic fonts, all inscribed with the Louis Vuitton signature. And yes, there were cowboy boots and hats; items that Louis Vuitton will inevitably sell, with four-figure price tags. If the concept of a luxury brand plagiarizing the style of working ranchers strikes you as distasteful, you’re not alone.

To be clear, “cultural appropriation,” across borders or class, is not wrong. The best work released by Louis Vuitton in recent years — under Pharrell’s predecessor, the late great Virgil Abloh — was a montage of cross-cultural inspiration, remixing elements from airport fashion to Canal Street knock-offs and Western fashion. Similarly, other houses like Ralph Lauren, Fear of God, and Amiri have drawn inspiration from cowboy style, using tassels, string neckties, fringed leather, and riding boots, but used within their own design languages. They didn’t just produce garish knockoffs, as Pharrell has chosen to here. 

Pharrell Williams walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 16, 2024 in Paris. Francois Durand/Getty Images

The irony of it all is that, in the few pieces when Pharrell restrained himself, this inspiration worked well. A cow-print Louis Vuitton duffle bag exudes wonderful Americana maximalism, as does the use of classic decoration stitching on the chest, collar, and shoulders of the suits in Looks 29 and 68. His use of a red and black flannel damier print on a wide-lapel, double breasted coat in Look 52 is unique and interesting, and his damier-print denim jacket and jeans remain just as strong in Look 23 as when he released them in his first collection. More broadly, incorporating the details and silhouettes of older working garments — such as wide lapels, longer backs, and straight sleeves — into clean, simple coats and leather jackets cleverly makes them feel characterful and distinctly American, yet still sincere and befitting Louis Vuitton. The black coat in Look 60 is undoubtedly the standout piece of the collection.

The Louis Vuitton Fall 2024 Menswear line, Look 48, as envisioned by Pharrell Williams. Courtesy Louis Vuitton

However, most looks were unappealing combinations of vulgar clichés, from endless cowboy hats to needless tassels tagged onto existing bags, and yes, riding boots. The monogram tracksuit and croc duffle bag in Look 47 are so astonishingly ugly that they almost become an achievement in themselves. Pharrell’s signature Louis Vuitton ghillie-suit “damouflage” is no less ugly when rendered in dusty orange on the Look 41 puffer jacket.

Another example from Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2024 menswear look. Courtesy Louis Vuitton

There were a few looks when he broke from the theme, but these were all the more galling. The cream, collarless bouclé jacket in Look 7 is a flagrant rip-off of Chanel, while the plaid coat in Look 50 is heavily “inspired” by the work of Kid Super. The creative director and founder of Kid Super, Colm Dillane, had created a capsule collection for Vuitton before Pharrell’s arrival for Fall 2023; a collection that stands among the very best ever released by the brand, and approximately infinitely better than anything produced since Pharrell’s arrival at the maison.

A pink bag as part of the Louis Vuitton Fall 2024 Menswear line. Courtesy Louis Vuitton

This whole collection is a poorly executed bad idea, and its commercial success is doubtful. The cowboy-boot trend has long vanished from recommendation feeds, and the accessories — the high-margin money-makers for luxury houses — were either dull, unrelated to the theme, or uncommercial. One of the few unique touches Pharrell has brought to Louis Vuitton, his focus on French and naval-inspired hats, haven’t become commercial hits.

Perhaps Pharrell will improve in his further collections, making aesthetic and commercial hits. But creative director contracts only last three years, so if he doesn’t do so quickly, Louis Vuitton’s owners, LVMH, will find someone else who can.

The New York Sun

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