A week after the tragic passing of Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, Virginie Viard was announced as his successor. Predominately remaining out of the spotlight until her recent appearances during Chanel show finales, Viard has been studio chief and Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman for three decades. But, there’s so much more you need to know about Chanel’s new creative director…
Originally from Lyon, France, Viard is the eldest of five siblings. Her father was a ski champion turned surgeon and her maternal grandparents were silk manufacturers, potentially being a subliminal fashion and textile influence on Viard.
Her partner, Jean-Marc Fyot, is a composer and music producer. They have a son, Robinson Fyot, who is now in his early twenties. Fun fact: he walked the runway of the Chanel 2014 show in Singapore, sporting a lace blazer.
Prior to the French designer joining Chanel in 1987 as an intern in the embroidery department – four years after Lagerfeld had been put in charge at the house – she began her career as assistant to costume designer and set decorator Dominique Borg.
Viard designed costumes for films and plays before meeting Lagerfeld who suggested she worked at Chanel, and at a later date follow him to Chloé. When Karl became Chloé’s artistic director in 1992, Viard followed suit and worked there for five years. When the duo left Chloé, she returned to Chanel as haute couture co-ordinator. But, it wasn’t until the year 2000 that her position expanded to director of the ready-to-wear and accessories design studio.
Viard’s Relationship with Lagerfeld
On several occasions, Lagerfeld had spoken out about the level to which he relied on Viard for his work. Lagerfeld once said that “she’s my right arm and my left arm.” This inseparable bond was made public during the cruise show in May last year as Viard joined Lagerfeld for the first time in the show’s finale. For the couture show this January, she took a bow alone when Lagerfeld was too unwell to attend the show.
Lagerfeld further reiterated his reliance on Viard in the Netflix documentary 7 Days Out, stating that“Virginie is the most important person, not only for me but also for the atelier, for everything. She is my right arm and even if I don’t see her, we are on the phone all the time.”
Viard spoke equally as fondly of her mentor and friend, telling Grazia Magazine that “over the years, there have been tiring moments, things unspoken, but overall, always, respect and kindness.”
Becoming Creative Director
After Chanel had lost its leading man, the brand announced:
“Virginie Viard, Director of CHANEL’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer [chairman of Chanel] with the creative work for the collections.”
According to Chanel’s statement, she was appointed “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.” Many fashion industry insiders believe that she is the best person, if not the only person, to continue with Lagerfeld’s vision.
With all eyes are on her as creative director, Viard will step into Lagerfeld’s shoes designing eight collections a year, from ready-to-wear to haute couture. It is currently rumoured that her first offering will likely be the 2019 cruise collection which is normally presented in May.
Injecting Her Own Style
Although Chanel chose Viard to keep Lagerfeld’s legacy alive, a 2017 interview for The Telegraph indicates she is likely to inject her own style to future Chanel collections. “I try to please him [Karl], but I also try to surprise him”, she told the British newspaper.
So, we can very much expect some interesting surprises in the collections come. We are incredibly excited and wish Viard the very best of luck.
Tell us your thoughts for the future of Chanel in the comments below.
Text: Ella Buxton
Images: Crash, Fashionista, WWD, L’OFFICIEL Baltics, Vogue