The French fashion house confirmed that Virginie Viard will be overseeing all its collections going forward, officially appointing her as artistic director of fashion collections in charge of haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessories.
Eric Pfrunder, Chanel’s director of image for the last three decades, will stay as artistic director of fashion image, the brand said in a statement.
“[Chanel chief executive officer] Alain Wertheimer confirms his confidence in the team that worked with Karl Lagerfeld for over 30 years, and in all the fashion teams at Chanel under the leadership of Bruno Pavlovsky, fashion president for the house, to further develop the creativity and vitality of fashion at Chanel,” it said.
In its original statement last week announcing Lagerfeld’s death, Chanel said Viard, Lagerfeld’s longtime right-hand woman, had “been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.”
Lagerfeld, who was cremated in an intimate ceremony on Friday, had been artistic director of the brand for 36 years. Viard, whose kohl-rimmed eyes and heavy bangs are markers of her rock-chic style, has been taking a bow alongside Lagerfeld for the last few seasons, beginning with the cruise 2019 show in Paris last May.
Born in 1962, Viard becomes the first woman to helm Chanel since founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself. The designer, whose grandparents were silk manufacturers, studied theater design at the Cours George in her native city of Lyon, going on to become an assistant to costumer designer Dominique Borg.
She joined Chanel as an intern in 1987 after being recommended for the job by Prince Rainier of Monaco’s chamberlain, and was quickly put in charge of embroidery, working directly with Lesage. Between 1992 and 1997, Viard worked alongside Lagerfeld at Chloé, subsequently returning to Chanel as coordinator of haute couture.
Since 2000, she has been director of the house’s creation studio, overseeing the development and the production of all the haute couture, rtw and accessories collections. Viard had a symbiotic working relationship with Lagerfeld, who said of her: “She is my right arm and my left arm.”
“We speak all the time — he calls me and sends me sketches via his phone — and we see each other every day,” Viard told British daily The Telegraph in 2017. “The complicity is total.”
Viard guarantees continuity, having established a strong working dynamic with the teams producing 10 annual collections, including the cruise, Métiers d’Art and dedicated ski and swimwear lines.
“It’s mostly intuitive for me. I feel like I’m working the same way I did 20 years ago. And everything goes along smoothly because, above all, our studio is about teamwork. I don’t feel like I’m a ‘director.’ Our hierarchy isn’t felt throughout the studio, it’s seamless,” she told Crash magazine in 2015.
The designer shares a number of characteristics with her mentor, among them a strong work ethic, and a love of books and music. “I like this frantic pace; when you take a break, it’s hard to get going again,” she told Crash.
Chanel is slated to show the last collection designed by Lagerfeld on March 5, in what promises to be the emotional high point of Paris Fashion Week. The house has said it is planning a farewell ceremony for the designer, though sources familiar with its plans said it would take place separately at an unspecified date after the show.