‘Everything was flesh-coloured to represent humanness’: Pharrell Williams’ latest Louis Vuitton show comes amid political tensions in France

Williams chose to stage the show in the gardens of the Unesco headquarters
Williams chose to stage the show in the gardens of the Unesco headquarters - Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP

There’s a crackle of tension in the air around Paris right now. France stands on the brink of a snap election, a risky move by Emmanuel Macron that could hand power to far-Right politician Marine Le Pen. At the same time the City of Light holds its breath as the Olympics roll out across its various arrondissements next month, with sections of the city out of bounds and the ensuing commuter chaos and security risks.

So Pharrell Williams’s decision to stage his menswear show for Louis Vuitton in the gardens of the Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) headquarters – 193 flags whipping ferociously overhead as storm clouds threatened – was always going to be construed as politically loaded.

In Williams's fourth show as the brand's head of menswear, some signature codes are beginning to show, says Doig
In Williams's fourth show as the brand's head of menswear, some signature codes are beginning to show, says Doig - getty

“I would never dare to think that we could be a reason for people to come together,” said Williams in the almighty scrum after the show, Messianic as a protective swell of his ‘people’ swarmed around him. “But to present that notion is the only thing that we can do. There’s so much divisiveness out there in the world. Listen, this wasn’t a show about peace, but it was a show about unity and the oneness when you invite everybody as a whole. We are appreciative of this opportunity to talk about it,” he said, perhaps using the royal we, or referring to the collective he formed with various collaborators in the collection, including Air Afrique – a publication named after the airline focusing on Afro-diasporic art – and Apple, who created AirTags for the show.

That world view parlayed into the clothes he showcased on the catwalk – quite literally, with renderings of the earth as seen from space on clothes – and in the diverse casting of the models. “I don’t know if you noticed, but everything was flesh-coloured,” Williams said. “From black to dark brown to light brown to beige and white, because I wanted to represent humanness. Our collective humanity.”

There were renderings of the earth as seen from space on clothes
There were renderings of the earth as seen from space on clothes - Dominique Charriau

That’s a lot to load into a show, but the collection was vast and the themes varied, from footballing motifs to sections of glossy eveningwear, with decorative bomber jackets, heritage tartan motifs injected with bold colour and vividly checked suits in between. Oh, and those bags; squashed, electric-hued, structured, shrunken and entire Vuitton trunks carted down the catwalk like models in their own right.

Footballing motifs featured throughout
Footballing motifs featured throughout - Getty
Vividly checked suits injected colour into proceedings
Vividly checked suits injected colour into proceedings - getty

It’s Williams’s fourth show as the brand’s head of menswear, having taken over from the late polymath Virgil Abloh, and he’s developed some signature codes; his attention towards the familiar Damier check, rendering it this time around on suits and on denim, and a thread of tailoring that speaks to the Vuitton customer of old, before Abloh steered it in a more streetwear direction.

Williams has revived the brand's roots in tailoring
Williams has revived the brand's roots in tailoring - getty
The brand's familiar Damier check featured across the board
The brand's familiar Damier check featured across the board - Dominique Charriau

The more grown-up, sophisticated elements were the most seductive part of Williams’s Vuitton vision, harnessing Vuitton’s skill in the world of luxury savoir-faire – the sweeping coats, sleek black eveningwear suit and dusting of embroidery and embellishment.

The collection featured a dusting of embroidery and embellishment.
The collection featured a dusting of embroidery and embellishment - getty

There was a Parisian sense of refinement that was elevated and pleasingly dandyish amidst so much casualwear. The inclusion of mink fur – a practice increasingly rare, but still a sales driver in the ultra-luxury fashion world and at LVMH in particular – raised eyebrows. Given Williams’s usual focus on newness – he was an early pioneer of the polymath template, a tech entrepreneur, NFT mogul and runs two educational platforms – it seemed rather antiquated and out-of-step to focus so heavily on fur. “It’s a design thing…is this an ethical question?,” he said when challenged on it. “I feel the same way about leather, it breathes...you know, it is what it is,” he said, deflecting somewhat.

The inclusion of mink fur raised eyebrows
The inclusion of mink fur raised eyebrows - Dominique Charriau

The designer was flanked by Bernard Arnault – France’s richest man – and his children, a Succession-style line-up of France’s first family of fashion. Vuitton is one of the jewels in his LVMH crown, and with the group posting a slight dip in revenue this year it’s likely that consolidation and not rocking the boat is the message from C Suite. Williams offers plenty of sellable items – those bags and trainers – as well as the ability to create a “moment”. As for the threatening storm clouds overhead? They stayed at bay.

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Pharell Williams greets the crowd at the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 show in Paris - Dominique Charriau