Celebrity Style

Inside Pharrell Williams’s Stylish Trip to Dakar for the Chanel Show

Courtesy of Chanel

The musician takes us behind the scenes of the historic runway show.

Earlier this month, Chanel staged its new pre-fall 2023 show in Dakar. Chanel creative director Virginie Viard thought the city’s former Palais de Justice was the perfect place to spotlight the rich culture—and style—that exists among Senegalese people, many of whom sat front row at the presentation. Taking note of the exquisite fashions from locals was style star Pharrell Williams, who also attended. “Some of the best-dressed fashion show attendees at any Chanel show were at this show,” he tells Vogue. “It was like watching The Sartorialist, or the back of a Vogue magazine for street shots. It was amazing.”

Pharrell is no stranger to wearing a striking Chanel look himself, of course. He’s a long friend of the house and served as a muse to the late Karl Lagerfeld, so it’s clear why the star wouldn’t miss this latest presentation. Shortly after the show, the star talked to Vogue about some of his favorite parts of his Dakar trip. It was his first time visiting the city, after all—there was much to see. “I took some of my family with me, and we all had an experience together,” says Williams, who traveled with wife Helen Lasichanh. “The city itself is beautiful. The energy there is amazing and super inspiring.”

Jenke Ahmed Tailly, Edward Enninful, Pharrell Williams, Naomi Campbell, and Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Chanel

Williams kicked off his Senegalese experience with the runway. As someone who has sat front row at many of Lagerfeld and Viard’s shows, he says this latest pre-fall collection was particularly impressive. “For me, this was Virginie’s best work,” Williams says. “You saw it in the silhouettes—in how she cuts and how she thinks of a woman’s body. The usage of the colors was just another level.” His favorite looks from the collection were the playful ones. “Man, the denim bell-bottoms were great,” Williams says. “I loved the pink leather look, and the green and brown leopard cardigan with the matching pants. I also loved all the jumper looks.”

Helen Williams. Courtesy of Chanel

Of course, the star needed his own statement outfit for the affair. Williams wore Chanel’s purple floral-print button-up shirt and below-the-knee shorts, complete with a matching bucket hat and mini quilted necklace bag. Shorts are his signature item, he says. “I’m a shorts guy, though those were the longest shorts I’ve worn in a long time,” Williams says. “My shorts are usually shorter; I lean towards a 1980s tennis-player kind of thing. But this was a very different look—something flowy and super comfortable.” He adds that the label’s sleek, universal appeal is what keeps him coming back for more. “They make certain things that I can just pull off,” Williams says. “Whether it’s a women’s cardigan, or a black jacket which was really inspired by a men’s silhouette of a bellman’s jacket, a lot of the things that Coco Chanel did in the very beginning borrowed from things that had a very masculine impetus.”

Williams made sure to take in some of the sights outside of the show. “We went everywhere from the markets to the hood,” Williams says. “We went to this place called Medina; it was very beautiful.” The star also made stops at the Bufalo Soldier Music Shop, where he met the owner, Cheikh Amala Doucouré, and visited some of the Dakar markets too. “We saw everything from apparel to jewelry, and modern and ancient statues,” Williams says. “I didn’t do too much shopping, though. I was more interested in people-watching.”  His main takeaway from all of the locals? “You see the resiliency of the people and you sense that immense pride that they have their own sovereignty.”

Pharrell at the Bufalo Soldier Music Shop. Courtesy of Chanel

Visiting the House of Slaves and its Door of No Return—a museum and memorial to the victims of the Atlantic slave trade—was a particularly poignant moment for Williams. He was also drawn to the beautiful architecture throughout the city. “The Senegalese structures are very different from anywhere else,” Williams says. “When you look at the houses, there’s a sense of proprietorship and self-expression, which makes those communities very colorful and interesting. Everyone practices individuality.”

It was a whirlwind few days in the Senegalese city, but now that Williams is back home in Miami, don’t expect him to be relaxing for the holidays just yet. “I don’t even know what winding down means,” Williams says. “I’ll be working and being with my family—my two favorite things to do.”

Pharrell at the Bufalo Soldier Music Shop. Courtesy of Chanel

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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