PARIS, June 20 (Reuters) – Pharrell Williams drew a global audience to the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris for his debut collection at Louis Vuitton, as menswear creative director kicked off a more groundbreaking outdoor show packed with celebrities. LVMH-owned (LVMH.PA) brand in popular culture.
Models strutted down the runway in bejeweled track pants, furry outerwear and glittery jackets in all colors and sizes to perform to live music. Audiences flocked to the Seine River to witness the show, which continued LV’s trend of mixing street with luxury.
“I’m only the second black person on the planet to experience this,” Williams said in an interview before the show, referring to his work since February.
The 50-year-old Williams, best known as a singer and writer of pop hits, ended months of speculation by filling the shoes of his friend Virgil Abloh from March 2018 until his death in November. In the year 2021 Abloh was the industry’s highest-profile black designer, credited for creating high-quality fashion for street style and skateboarding looks.
“My brother Virgil was the first. He’s made a lot of strides for his house, and he’s done a lot of things. He’s brought a culture of success to this world — being an American black man. It’s unreal that I can do that, too,” Williams said.
Bernard Arnott, chairman and CEO of LMMH, and his family, whom Williams has known for years, are “extremely supportive” of his new venture. Arnott and his sons, who hold important positions in LVMH, sit in the front row.
Williams was first introduced to the Arnott clan in 2004 when he collaborated with Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs to design a line of sunglasses.
Williams’ appointment raised eyebrows despite his extensive fashion experience, including working streetwear with Japanese designer Nigo and designing capsule collections for Chanel.
Williams dismissed skeptics who doubted her lack of formal fashion training. “I didn’t go to Juilliard for music either, and I’m fine,” he said.
HSBC analyst Erwan Ramburg said Williams’ appointment is “taking a stand” as many accounts talk about diversity and inclusion.
However, menswear represents less than 5 percent of LV’s annual sales of more than 20 billion euros ($21.82 billion), Rambourg estimates.
Robert Schramm-Fuchs, portfolio manager at LVMH shareholder Janus Henderson, said the group’s push into the traditional world would help broaden the luxury brand’s appeal.
Given LVMH’s size, the number of new customers it needs to move the needle is higher than for smaller brands, Schramm-Fuchs said.
“If you bring in lifestyle and things like that, you have to be careful not to alienate existing customer groups,” he said.
“It’s a challenge, and for now they’re handling it very well.”
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Reporting by Mimosa Spencer; Additional reporting by Helen Reed; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Richard Chang
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