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It’s Monday morning in the Heathrow lounge and an iPhone attached to a black-clad arm comes around the corner like a telescopic fashion spy cam. Sophia Neophitou has arrived. For the next four days, all the world is her Big Brother house and we are its housemates; I am the Brigitte Nielsen to her Jackie Stallone; Sandra Fraga and Kenny To – the British keepers of the magical Louis Vuitton unicorn forest – are the omnipresent Geordie voices of wisdom. We are heading to Hong Kong for Pharrell Williams’s first pre-fall show, which marks the maison’s first runway staging of a men’s pre-collection.

We’re flying Cathay Pacific, where service is diligent, stern and unfussy (my Tinder bio) and Sophia, who keeps her thigh-high Armani leather boots on throughout, watches French film Jeanne du Barry (she was the favourite of King Louis XV) while I take in a selection of works from The Conjuring franchise. Paramours and poltergeists… let the games begin. Tuesday, after a 7am landing, we check in to the Regent: a luxe high-rise hotel on the Tsim Sha Tsui side of Victoria Harbour, which overlooks the stunning waterfront promenade known as the Avenue of Stars, where the show will take place. In the rooms, we’re greeted by special-edition show merch that would make the hearts of Gen Z palpitate. It includes a selection of teas, adorned with Louis Vuitton’s alchemising logo, that are fabulous enough to convert the staunchest of coffee drinkers. After a traditional Cantonese lunch served in The Legacy House in the labyrinthine Rosewood Hotel next door, we voyage to the city centre via water bus, ticking the crucial boating box of any self-respecting cruise show trip. Next, a steep walkthrough the hustle and bustle of mesmerising Hong Kong with its red taxis and retro-futuristic skyscrapers, many of which are neon-lit in LV graphics teasing Thursday’s runway extravaganza.

Dinner unfolds in The Aubrey at the Mandarin Oriental, which may be Japanese in cuisine but whose decor fulfils every Wong Kar-wai celluloid dream you’ve ever had (my only note from this evening read, “Order case of Podere della Civettaja for house”, so you know it was a good time). Wednesday morning starts with a gift: the arrival of Stephen Doig, Telegraph menswear critic par excellence and renowned curator of sumptuous silk pyjamas worn for day and evening. Sophia, who has been joined by her best boy Garth Spencer, goes off location scouting (i.e. panning over things with her phone while sultrily saying, “Look…Isn’t it gorgeous?”) so Stephen and I join the remaining press gang for a jolly dim-sum feast in an old-fashioned tea house. Stephen is wearing a silken geo-print two-piece, which I suspect is Dries Van Noten, and drapes it casually yet carefully in a cashmere jumper and a Vuitton messenger bag.

Later, we explore the markets, where Stephen peruses a fan stall and we decide he should open a shop called OnlyFans. Then it’s back to The Regent, where show rehearsals are echoing along the promenade, giving us a preview of its original soundtrack song Airplane Tickets, composed by Pharrell with Swae Lee and Rauw Alejandro. (We don’t yet know it, but it will go on to become an inescapable, escapist winter anthem.) After some down time we’re ferried to the formal welcome dinner at the fabled China Club, with its ceiling fans, plissé lampshades and waiters in white livery where, I notice, upon retrospectively scrolling through my iPhone pictures, we’re all wearing silk shirts: Stephen and I in D&G (his coral, mine cream) and Sandra in archive Louis florals from the Virgil years. You know what they say at fashion college: “Three’s a trend.”

Finally, it’s Thursday – show day – but as destination trip protocol prescribes, there’s no show without a daytime activity. And so, we venture back into town for a Hong Kong heritage tour, which also marks the arrival of one Elizabeth von Guttman, she of System magazine fame, who instantly amplifies the general chicness level. You know you’ve picked the most cultured activity when Elizabeth is in your group (other options counted more boating or climbing to a viewpoint) and with that relief, off we go. Temples, murals, markets and uphill streets made entirely of escalators provide excellent Instagram content and we depart for lunch more knowledgeable and with more market trinkets than anyone will ever need. Lunch materialises at FAM, a contemporary take on a teahouse overlooking Victoria Harbour, where Kenny – our very own HK connoisseur – orders us the local delicacies.

The show is a five-minute walk from the hotel, which no one who’s ever been on a cruise trip (which are usually made up of 50 per cent driving) can get over, and which we talk about for at least 30 minutes. Sophia, who has been managing her ever-expanding 10 empire (Ten-pire?) all day, has finally manifested – in full The Row, of course – and Stephen is a vision in a white silk trouser with aquarelle tropical florals. It’s an appropriate look for what meets us as we enter the show space on the Avenue of Stars, which virtually hangs over the Hong Kong waterfront. Here, Vuitton have created a resort-like mise-en-scène covered in sand and palm trees. These are set against Victoria Harbour, where the red sails of Hong Kong’s emblematic junk boats have been swapped for ones rendered in the colours and monogram of the next-generation Speedy bags, launched as part of Pharrell’s debut LV show last June.

“Watching The Love Boat as a kid, I used to always think the lighting was so amazing. It was this beautiful concord blue and grape vibe. Like blueberry, crazy! And the clouds were always so da Vinci white and silky,” Pharrell tells us. “I wanted to introduce some of that light into the collection and how we show it, bathed in the light of the wave-maker – the moon– on the Avenue of Stars. These elements are all expression of the nautical theme of the show.” Some 50 ukulele players make the rounds during seating, providing a laidback fanfare for what unfolds: a tropical paradise of sailors, beach boys, surfers and divers, dressed to the nines in Pharrell’s Vuitton-infused take on the nautical and resort wardrobes. Five months after his sun-centric debut show for the house, this is his poetic ode to the moon, the sea and the forces of nature that create waves and raise us up.

Quite literally: “I want to give reverence to the surfing culture of Hawaii but also to surfer enthusiasts from Hong Kong. I’ve never actually surfed a day in my life, but I think it’s a beautiful culture. What I see is people riding waves: waves that are caused by the position of the moon and the winds; that’s a crazy connection from an ethereal point of view. How often do we get to ride waves as human beings?” Illustrating just that, when Airplane Tickets come on, Lee and Alejandro shoot out of their seats and jam to their new single. Pharrell takes his bow in a white double-breasted boating suit with flared trousers and a sailor cap, surrounded by his cast of local models, surfers and friends of the house. “As in the previous show, when we took you from VA [Virginia, his home state] to Paris, it’s a conduit. It’s making a connection between people. Finding connections between cultures, where they maybe apparent or not. Hong Kong is one of my favourite places: beautiful culture, beautiful people, lots of creativity,” says Pharrell. “There’s a wealth of tradition here, some kept closely preserved and some responding to newer influences. It’s an incredibly vibrant place, and I’m a vibrations person. When I started to think about the idea of the show and the vibrations connected to it, it made me think of Hawaii. The energy there is amazing. I wanted to merge those two worlds together: from Hawaii to Hong Kong.” The show climaxes with alight show courtesy of thousands of drones that light up Victoria Harbour’s sky before we dance the night away in the Rosewood. The next morning, in the haze of the Hong Kong experience, we go to the airport wondering – as ever – why life can’t always be like a voyage with the maison of dreams. Love you, Louis.

Issue 23 of 10 Men – PRECISION, CRAFT, LUXURY – is on newsstands now.



Photographer KEN NGAN
Hair HIM NG at The Attic using Oribe Hair Care
Photographer’s assistants BO KU and CLIFF CHIK
Production JERRY HAHA at Artificial Dust
Production assistant JENNY WONG
Retouching ALY
Studio Location Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong

Clothing, shoes, bags and accessories throughout by LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S PRE-FALL 2024