Virginie Viard, Artistic Director of Chanel, Departs

Virginie Viard, artistic director of fashion collections at Chanel, has departed the company after five years, according to a statement from Chanel on Wednesday evening.

A new creative organization will be “announced in due course,” according to Chanel.

The 62-year-old Viard, who succeeded Karl Lagerfeld, has been able to “renew the codes of the house while respecting the creative heritage of Chanel,” said the company.

Viard has been with Chanel for 30 years and was a close collaborator of Lagerfeld.

“Chanel would like to thank Virginie Viard for her remarkable contribution to Chanel’s fashion, creativity and vitality,” said a Chanel spokeswoman.

The haute couture fall 2024 collection will be presented as planned on June 25 at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, according to Chanel.

Just a few weeks ago, Chanel gave Viard its vote of confidence after the French luxury house again delivered record revenues in 2023. At that time, Chanel’s global chief executive officer Leena Nair and chief financial officer Philippe Blondiaux said the luxury behemoth plans to maintain both its brand strategy and creative direction unchanged, despite a slowdown in global luxury spending and mixed online reactions to its latest price increases and ready-to-wear collections.

The luxury house reported revenues totaled $19.7 billion last year, up 16 percent at comparable rates, with double-digit growth across all categories. Sales increased in all markets as tourists returned to many locations, while demand from local customers remained sustained.

After succeeding Lagerfeld in 2019, Viard had been instrumental to the brand’s success in recent years. Under her watch, Chanel’s rtw business has been multiplied by 2.5 and it grew 23 percent last year alone, Blondiaux reported last month. ”From a consumer perspective and a brand perspective, Virginie has been a massive contributor,” he said. 

Models on the runway during the Chanel Cruise 2024 Runway Show held at MAMO, Centre d’art de la Cité Radieuse on May 2, 2024 in Marseille, France.

Models on the runway during the Chanel cruise 2024 show held at MAMO, Centre d’art de la Cité Radieuse on May 2 in Marseille, France.

Franck Mura for WWD

That praise followed a slew of negative social media comments following Chanel’s resort show in Marseille, which targeted a younger demographic. The show was held on the rooftop of the Cité Radieuse, one of the flagship midcentury housing projects of architect Le Corbusier, on a damp and blustery day.

The display had come amid renewed speculation that Hedi Slimane would take over as creative director of the house — a rumor that first surfaced in 2017 and one that Chanel has consistently denied.

Other names that have been bandied about as possible successors are Pierpaolo Piccioli, former Valentino creative director, and Sarah Burton, former creative director of Alexander McQueen.

Viard’s appointment had marked the first time a female designer had taken the helm of the brand since Gabrielle Chanel herself.

Despite having been at the company for more than 30 years, when she took on the lead creative post, Viard had until that time kept out of the spotlight. Lagerfeld and Viard had had such a close working relationship that he once stated, “She is my right arm and my left arm.”

Her own signature punk look includes kohl-rimmed eyes, blunt bangs and all-black outfits. Viard began what would become lengthy design experience as an intern at Chanel in 1987, after being recommended to the brand by the chamberlain to Prince Rainier of Monaco. She was quickly put in charge of the house’s embroidery. Developing a close professional relationship with Lagerfeld, Viard left Chanel for Chloé when the designer — who previously designed for Chloé from 1963 to 1983 — returned to the label for the second time in 1992. Viard then left Chloé with Lagerfeld in 1997, returning to Chanel as the coordinator of haute couture. In 2000, Viard became director of Chanel’s creation studio, where she oversaw the haute couture, rtw and accessories collections. She worked closely with Lagerfeld on all 10 collections that Chanel produces each year.

Born in 1962, the designer hails from Lyon, France, where her grandparents worked as silk manufacturers. Viard studied theater design at the Cours Georges and then became the assistant to costume designer Dominique Borg.

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