Virginie Viard Steps Down At Chanel

Fashion’s game of musical chairs continues apace, now with an opening at one of the biggest brands in the world.
Published: June 6, 2024
Virginie Viard Steps Down At Chanel
Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

After 30 years at Chanel, the past five of which she served as Artistic Director, Virginie Viard is leaving the brand. She was appointed to the top creative role at the House after Karl Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, having been his right hand for decades before that. When Lagerfeld took the helm in 1983, the brand was still well known and respected but far from its heyday under Coco Chanel, who died in 1971. Lagerfeld had a blockbuster run all the way till his passing, revitalising the brand and turning it into one of fashion’s largest behemoths. Viard’s succession brought a sense of stability and continuity at an uncertain time. 

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While Lagerfeld was known for his larger-than-life theatrics, Viard injected a more down-to-earth sensibility into the House. She focused on modern, pragmatic clothes with a more youthful bent—a vision that sometimes confounded critics but that has resonated so strongly with shoppers that the brand reported an all-time high of almost USD20 billion in sales last year alone. 

Virginie Viard steps down at Chanel
Chanel Métiers D'Art 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

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Viard’s departure strikes a huge blow to gender parity at the top of the luxury fashion pyramid. The number of female designers helming a multibillion-dollar brand can be counted on one hand: Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior; Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski and Véronique Nichanian at Hermès, doing womenswear and menswear respectively; and Silvia Venturini Fendi, who leads menswear and accessories at Fendi. With the exception of Chemena Kamali at Chloé, all the big fashion hires in the past couple of years have been male designers. 

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Speculation is sure to go into overdrive over who will be replacing Viard at Chanel. For months now, rumours have been swirling about Hedi Slimane’s potential exit from Celine. If he makes the jump to Chanel, he will be bringing with him a legion of hardcore fans, but as proven at both Celine and Saint Laurent, he is also prone to giving things a major shake-up—not a bad thing for creativity, though perhaps a little less appealing for the corporate overlords of a proven-successful business worth billions. Other big names for hire include Pierpaolo Piccioli, who recently left Valentino, as well as Sarah Burton (formerly of Alexander McQueen), Clare Waight Keller and Riccardo Tisci.

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