Virginie Viard Will Succeed Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel

Chanel : Runway - Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2019

Getty ImagesPascal Le Segretain

Chanel has announced that Virginie Viard, the brand’s fashion studio director, will succeed Karl Lagerfeld. The legendary designer’s death was confirmed on Tuesday, February 19th. He was 85.

Viard has worked alongside Karl Lagerfeld since (nearly) the beginning. Her tenure at Chanel started in 1987 when a family friend Prince Rainier’s chamberlain, recommended Viard to the designer for an internship. The two creatives have been inseparable ever since. She followed him to Chloé in 1992, and back to Chanel in 1997. At October’s show at the Grand Palais, she even joined him for his bow.

She spoke to ELLE for the December issue (where she was also photographed by Lagerfeld), even though she admitted, “I hate being in the spotlight.”

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Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. Hair by Declan Sheils for Hair by Sam McKnight; makeup by Tom Pecheux at Calliste Agency; manicure by Anny Errandonea

Viard says their process begins when Lagerfeld completes one of his famous colored-pencil-and-pastel sketches, which he still does by hand. “I immediately dispatch each sketch to each première d’atelier, according to her skills and capabilities. I visualize the show, get things ready for him, decide on materials, coordinate the teams, and liaise with suppliers,” she says. “I like to think of myself as the one who helps his vision come alive.”

Lagerfeld describes their partnership thusly: “She is my right hand and my left hand,” he says. “Our relationship is essential, doubled by a very real friendship and affection.” Adds Viard, “I try to—to anticipate what he would like. I love to please him but also surprise him.” Over the years, she has gotten to know the private Lagerfeld. “He is very sensitive, like all creative people, but very faithful, generous—which might not be what people would guess.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of ELLE.

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