Following the news of Karl Lagerfeld’s passing this morning, it was announced via Instagram post that Virginie Viard, director of Chanel’s fashion studio, would be taking over the French fashion house.
“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 with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on,” the post read.
Though the spotlight will now be very much cast upon her, Viard was seldom seen until October, at the end of Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2019 presentation, when she appeared alongside Lagerfeld for his post-show bow. This past January, Viard took the bow solo when, for the first time in Lagerfeld’s 30-year tenure, he did not appear at the show; Chanel addressed his absence, saying he was “feeling tired.”
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Though Viard has not spent much time in the public eye, she has been the late designer’s close friend and colleague for almost the entirety of his tenure at Chanel. Below, here are some things to know about the woman Lagerfeld described in the Nextflix 7 Days Out docu-series as his “right arm.”
She started at Chanel as an intern in 1987. The designer came recommended to Lagerfeld from a high-up source, a chamberlain of Prince Rainier. The two have been inseparable ever since, with Viard following him to Chloé in 1992 and back to Chanel in 1997.
She has intentionally kept private. In an interview in December with Elle, Viard said, “I hate being in the spotlight.”
Fashion is in her blood. The designer comes from a family of silk manufacturers and fashion lovers, and she started out wanting to make theater costumes, first assisting costume designer Dominique Borg. It was Lagerfeld who convinced her to make the switch to couture at Chanel, then Chloé.
But she did do costumes for a handful of films. She worked with French actress Isabelle Adjani and director Bruno Nuytten, in addition to designing the costumes for 1993’s Three Colors: Blue with Juliette Binoche and Three Colors: White with Julie Delpy.
Behind the scenes, Viard brought Lagerfeld’s colored-pencil-and-pastel sketches to life. “I visualize the show, get things ready for him, decide on materials, coordinate the teams and liaise with suppliers,” she told Elle. And while she has headed the ship, she has also said that she “doesn’t feel like I’m a ‘director,’” telling Crash that the fashion house’s “hierarchy isn’t felt throughout the studio, it’s seamless.”
Sometimes, she texted with Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette. To be close to Lagerfeld was to be close to Choupette, and as a top-tier inner circle member, apparently sometimes the late designer would text Viard pretending to be his cat. In an interview with W, Viard said that he would send messages with photos attached of the beloved cat, signing them “Your Choupette.”
She was the true definition of a right-hand man. From deciphering Lagerfeld’s handwriting for his florist to attending the 1989 funeral of Jacques de Bascher, the man known as the love of Lagerfeld’s life, she’s always been right by his side, “at once tender and authoritative.”