A close friend of the late designer, Viard has been under Lagerfeld’s wing for over three decades, described by many as his right-hand-woman, his protégé, and dear friend. She appeared alongside him as he closed his Spring/Summer 2019 show last year and represented him when he was feeling too tired to take a bow after what was his final couture show this January.
Yet despite emerging alongside Lagerfeld in front of the entire fashion world, Viard remains something of an enigma. So, as she readies herself to step into Lagerfeld’s immaculately-polished shoes at the head of the house, we round up everything you need to know about Chanel’s new creative director, Virginie Viard.
Viard started out at Chanel as an intern
In 1987, four years after Lagerfeld was appointed as creative director in ’83, the chamberlain to Prince Rainer of Monaco recommended Viard for a position at Chanel. She subsequently joined the crew as a haute-couture embroidery intern, and so started a 32-year-long relationship with Chanel and with Lagerfeld.
She worked with Lagerfeld at Chloé before returning with him to Chanel
Evidentially impressed with her work, she grew to become something of Lagerfeld’s protégé; he kept her by his side during a five-year stint at Chloé (’92-’97), before bringing her back to Chanel and appointing her as haute couture coordinator. In 2000, she began to oversee ready-to-wear.
She told French magazine Crash, “When Karl took over Chloé, I followed him and worked there for five years. I didn’t really notice a difference, since I was still just working with Karl.”
Their relationship wasn’t just professional
Lagerfeld and Viard’s relationship wasn’t all fabric selections and atelier meetings, however. Over the years the pair grew close, with Lagerfeld explaining during Netflix’s 7 Days Out documentary series, “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.”
What Lagerfeld did not divulge to Netflix, however, is that sometimes he would text Viard pretending to be his cat, Choupette. She revealed during an interview with W Magazine, “He signs them, Your Choupette,” she said before adding, “He might not like that I’m saying this.”
Viard has designed costume for film
The granddaughter of silk manufacturers, Viard has always been intrigued by fashion but, she as told Crash magazine her original plan was to make theater costumes. She started out as a wardrobe assistant, working on several films and plays including ’93’s French drama Thee Colors: Blue starring Juliette Binoche, and ’94’s French-Polish comedy-drama Three Colors: White, both of which were directed by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Fashion is not her inspiration
Lagerfeld once said that fashion is a reflection of our lives and times, and it would seem that Viard takes a similar stance. She cites her son (specifically, her son doing his homework), music, theater, her partner, and exhibitions as just some of the non-industry inspirations that influence her work.
In the same Crash interview she explained, “I keep an eye on fashion, but it’s not what inspires me.” Rather, the way she designs is mostly intuitive. “I feel like I’m working the same way I did twenty years ago. And everything goes along smoothly because, above all, our studio is about teamwork. I don’t feel like I’m a “Director.”
What’s more, it doesn’t seem as though ego will have much of a place in her atelier. “Our hierarchy isn’t felt throughout the studio, it’s seamless. Though the teams do count on me, of course. There are never any conflicts. In the end, it’s Karl who looks at the outfits with the workshop leaders; I don’t even need to be there. It’s always he who has the last word.” That, however, is clearly about to change.