Chanel announced Viard’s nomination “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on” at the same time as it confirmed Lagerfeld’s death on Tuesday.
The smoky-eyed designer who will take the spotlight after shunning it for decades was described by her mentor Karl Lagerfeld as “my right and left hand”.
He told Netflix’s “7 Days Out” documentary series: “Virginie is the most important person, not only for me but also for the atelier, for everything.”
Viard declines to reveal her age, as is common in the fashion world.
She joined Chanel as an intern in haute couture embroidery in 1987, four years after Lagerfeld took charge, after being recommended by a neighbour of her parents who was close to Monaco’s Prince Rainier.
“I imagine we are complementary,” Viard said of her relationship with Lagerfeld as Chanel’s head of studio. “I understand where he wants to take Chanel, but I can’t really explain it, it’s like that,” she told AFP in a 2015 interview.
“He doesn’t spend three hours on a dress. He sees right away if it works well or not.”
In November 2017, she told the London Telegraph that she tries “to please him, but I also like to surprise him.”
When Lagerfeld missed Chanel’s Paris haute couture show on January 22, with the brand saying he “was tired”, it was Viard who took a bow.
“Virginie Viard and Eric Pfrunder, Chanel’s director of image, will continue to work alongside him and follow up the collection and the brand’s publicity campaigns,” Chanel added at the time.
That set off speculation that the man nicknamed “the Kaiser”, who has ruled over fashion for a large part of the past half century, may be about to step back.
At his last Paris show in October, Lagerfeld had gone out of his way to acknowledge Viard, one of the behind-the-scenes heroines at the luxury label, for her years of support.
Often seen wearing a jacket over slim black trousers, Viard says she likes “fashion that lasts… clothes that actually aren’t in style”. It is an echo of the famous dictum of Coco Chanel:”Fashion changes, but style endures”, a fitting mantra for Viard in her new role.
Viard’s baptism of fire will come on March 5, when she unveils Chanel’s Autum-Winter 2019-2020 ready-to-wear collection in Paris. – neo/alu/spe/gd/ecl – AFP