Welcome to Virginia

This story appears in Justsmile Issue 4,
There's Still So Much More.

Mehki Mckenzie covers Justsmile Issue 4, where Justsmile visits Pharell's hometown of Virginia Beach to place the Louis Vuitton SS'24 menswear collection back in the original context that inspired it.

Photography Bryce Thomas

Styling Kevin Hunter
Text Dominic Cadogan

Mehki wears jacket, t-shirt, pants and slippers LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

What is the role of a creative director today? Historically, the position has been held by alumni of prestigious fashion schools – from Central Saint Martins to Parsons – but as the industry continues to morph and expand into the inescapable, all-encompassing behemoth it has become, are these parameters now redundant?

It’s a conundrum that first arose following the news of Pharrell Williams’ appointment as creative director for Louis Vuitton Men’s in February 2023 – succeeding the late Virgil Abloh, after his passing in November 2021.

Naysayers and netizens alike were quick to query why Williams had been selected by LVMH – with no formal design experience to speak of, despite creative endeavors with Chanel, Billionaire Boys Club, Moncler, adidas, and his skincare brand Humanrace – and continued to criticize in the lead up to his inaugural Spring/Summer 2024 show at Paris Fashion Week in June 2023.

One of the most anticipated debuts in years, it was easy to get engrossed in the shiny accoutrements of what can best be described as a leveling-up of the fashion show. An event of Super Bowlian proportions (at the time, it was viewed a mind-boggling one billion times), the front row boasted almost every name-to-know you could think of – Beyoncé, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Zendaya, LeBron James, Tyler, the Creator, Megan Thee Stallion, Naomi Campbell, Marcus Rashford, and Offset, just to name a few – while the post-show buzz comprised LV-wrapped burgers and performances from Jay-Z and Williams himself.

Yet, amid all the circular chatter and criticism, the devil was in the details, with Williams’ respectfully tipping his hat to his predecessor. Picking up the baton where Abloh left off, Blackness remained front and center, though in Williams’ hands, inspiration came from closer to home – namely his birthplace of Virginia.

Ayden Roberts, Richmond, VA. Ayden wears track top, pants, slippers and bags LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Quincy Green, Dinwiddie, VA. Quincy wears blazer, shirt, pants, sneakers and brooches LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Daniel Kimethu, Richmond, VA. Daniel wears shirt, shorts, shoes, derbys, socks and sunglasses LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Maxwell Avans, Princess Anne, VA.
 Maxwell wears blazer, cardigan, shirt, shorts, loafers and socks LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

With models marching out on the golden, Midasified Pont Neuf bridge – a stone’s throw from the house’s maison – the literal bridge represented a metaphorical connection between Paris to his hometown. In a VA state of mind, its slogan, ‘Virginia is for Lovers,’ was riffed on with ‘VA is for LVers’ and ‘Virginia is for LVers’ plastered across jackets that were monogrammed or appeared in a new pixelated camo print, he dubbed ‘damouflage’.

Elsewhere, the aural offerings of The Voices of Fire choir, all the way from VA – led by Williams’ uncle, Bishop Ezekiel Williams – and their euphoric chants of ‘Joy! Joy! Joy!’ morphed into ‘Chains & Whips’ by Virginia Beach hip-hop duo Clipse as the pair’s No Malice emerged on the runway alongside his brother, Pusha T.

Other references, however, were more subtle, ‘if you know, you know’ breadcrumbs easily missed by the untrained eye. Namely, an LV’d spin on a varsity jacket with a rhinestone ‘PA’ monogram, acknowledging his alma mater: Princess Anne High School. The starting point of his early creative footsteps – also attended by the Neptunes’ other half Chad Hugo – record producer Teddy Riley initially discovered Williams there at a talent show, and he has revisited countless times in the years since, paying homage to his roots.

For issue four of Justsmile editor-in-chief Kevin Hunter and creative director Bryce Thomas traveled to Virginia Beach to retrace Pharrell’s pre-Neptunes footsteps – from Princess Anne High School to his neighborhood, Atlantis – and place the Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2024 menswear collection back in the original context that inspired it. Featuring emerging faces from Virginia’s creative scene, flick through to find out exactly why Virginia is for Lovers, or as Williams puts it: “A state of mind founded in warmth, wellbeing and welcome-ness.”

Rahsean Holley, Norfolk, VA. Rahsean wears jacket, t-shirt, pants, sneakers, belt and skateboard LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Tomari Logan and Kenny Logan, Chesapeake, VA. Tomari (left) wears blazer, shirt, pants, belt and derbys LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S. Kenny (right) wears jacket, pants and boots LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Kayla Hollingsworth, Hampton, VA. Kayla wears jacket, pants, boots and bag LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Jay Wilson, Richmond, VA. Jay wears blazer, shirt, pants, slippers, brooch and bag LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Sir Ja’Mont, Portsmouth, VA.
Sir Ja’Mont wears jacket, pants, boots and bag LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Cinsere Torres, Virginia Beach, VA. Cinsere wears blazer, shirt, shorts, loafers, socks and beanie LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Leina Young, Dulles, VA. Leina wears shirt, shorts, sunglasses and bag LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S.

Justsmile Issue 4 is out now, click here to purchase.

Photography Bryce Thomas

Styling Kevin Hunter

Text Dominic Cadogan

Hair Antwan Giscombe

Production assistance Ismail Jallaq

Casting Blair Broll 

Models Ayden Roberts at Next Model Management, Cinsere Torres, Daniel Kimethu, Jay Wilson, Kayla Hollingsworth at Ethos Model Management, Kenny Logan at Ethos Model Management, Leina Young, Maxwell Avans, Mekhi Mckenzie, Quincy Green, Rahsean Holley, Sir Ja’Mont, Titus Sapp and Tomari Logan at Ethos Model Management.

Special Thanks Maxwell Avans

Shot on iPhone 15 Pro

All clothing and accessories Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring-Summer 2024

PUBLISHED: May 28 2024