July 19, 2024

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Virginie Viard exits Chanel, leaving top fashion job open

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Virginie Viard is exiting Chanel after five years serving as the French luxury house’s artistic director of fashion collections.

The designer took on the position following Karl Lagerfeld’s death in 2019 after working alongside him at Chanel for decades. She held one of fashion’s most coveted and elite jobs — with only Lagerfeld and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself acting as previous artistic directors for the storied brand.

In a press statement to CNN, Chanel confirmed Viard’s departure, writing that while the 62-year-old designer was at the helm, “she was able to renew the codes of the house while respecting the creative heritage of Chanel, and almost thirty years within the house.”

A successor has yet to be named, but the brand added that an announcement would be made “in due course.”

Models walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week in Paris, France on March 5, 2024. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesModels walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week in Paris, France on March 5, 2024. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Models walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week in Paris, France on March 5, 2024. – Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Chanel said that it wanted to thank Viard “for her remarkable contribution to Chanel’s fashion, creativity and vitality.”

Just last month, Chanel’s chief executive Leena Nair told The Business of Fashion that “since Virginie took over from Karl… the Chanel fashion business has multiplied by 2.2. The Chanel ready-to-wear business has been multiplied by 2.5, and the ready-to-wear business last year of Chanel grew by 23%.”

The brand’s earnings rose 16 percent to $19.7 billion in 2023.

As one of the industry’s most iconic and powerful players, Lagerfeld’s death in 2019 rocked the fashion world, and while he also headed up Fendi and his eponymous label at the time of his death, it was Lagerfeld’s prolific work at Chanel that he was best known for.

Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week on October 2, 2018 in Paris, France. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesKarl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week on October 2, 2018 in Paris, France. - Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard walk the runway during the Chanel show as part of Paris Fashion Week on October 2, 2018 in Paris, France. – Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Viard, who started at Chanel as an intern in 1987, went on to become Lagerfeld’s deputy for decades. So close was the pair’s working relationship that the German designer once described her as “my right arm and my left arm.”

Viard’s 2019 appointment came as no surprise, with Chanel reiterating that the decision was made “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.”

Who steps into the role this time will be a topic of serious speculation over the coming weeks.

The news follows a series of high profile moves in the industry. In March, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli parted ways with the Italian label after eight years as creative director, with Alessandro Michele (formerly of Gucci) stepping into the role. British designer Sarah Burton stepped down from Alexander McQueen in September last year.

Chanel is scheduled to stage a runway show at Paris Haute Couture week in June, in what is believed to be Viard’s last collection for the brand.

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