words by EMMANUELLE PLANTIER 
editor MAREK BARTEK

Today the fashion world was taken by a storm nobody could’ve predicted: Virginie Viard, creative director of Chanel for the last 5 years is leaving the House. It almost feels odd to think that the destinies of her and the brand are not fused anymore, as she was an eminent Chanel figure for almost 30 years. The official statement released by the fashion house praised her work for being “able to renew the codes of the House while respecting the creative heritage of Chanel”.  She was a ride or die double C, and having been Karl Lagerfeld’s right hand, she knew everything about the House identity and soul. After the legendary creator’s death in 2019, it seemed natural to have Viard taking over the reign of the artistic direction. But what was originally supposed to be a temporary substitution turned out to be quite lasting but it looks like the time has come to find a new head for Chanel. 

However, her immaculate application of Coco Chanel’s codes is to be noted:  her creations embodied ease and simplicity with the Chanel spirit showcased in tweed jackets, skirts and pantsuits. She perpetuated a classic Chanel look, rooting the house in its own essence, with a specific attention to runway locations like her predecessor. She will always remain an emblematic figure of the brand, like a forever friend. 

Despite her commercial success (the fashion house’ sales number went up under her direction, notably due to the explosion of the demand for luxury goods during the Covid-19 pandemic), there were numerous critics against her artistry. Her runway presentations were blamed to be too plain, and her risk-taking non-existent. With the intention to respect the century-old codes of brand, Virginie Viard approached design   in a timeless, yet immovable aesthetic that, however, left people longing for more creativity. The next Haute Couture Runway Show is set to happen as planned, but whether Viard’s traditional final bow takes place, for now remains a surprise. 

Nonetheless, with death comes rebirth, and the thing  on everybody’s minds is: who is going to succeed her and blow a new wind under Chanel’s wings – because with this new creator, Karl’s chapter closes definitively, and a completely new era begins. Speculations go fast and the guessing game is at its climax, but some names come back more often than others. The crowd’s favourite seems to be Hedi Slimane. After all, he shares an  intricate relationship with Karl’s work. Gossip says he could be exiting his position as creative director of Celine, but even if that reveals to be true, the non-compete agreement close could complicate this decision. Pierpaolo Piccioli is also rumoured to succeed Virginie Viard, which would be a perfect fashion return after leaving Valentino earlier this year. Some speculations suggested Sara Burton, hoped for Marc Jacobs, or prayed for John Galliano. The name Thom Browne appeared once or twice too, taking his Met Gala 2023 interpretations as one of the best homages to Karl Lagerfeld’s work for this occasion. 

Chanel has a strong visual image, and it must weigh in the balance when talking about who will reinterpret it. But the decision has to be quick, the next Ready to Wear show is scheduled on October 1st, and the future designer would have to get to work as soon as possible. If no one has been appointed in the coming weeks, the SS25 collection will probably be designed by the studio team.  

The mystery is yet to be solved, and the date of the announcement of the succession is kept secret. Nevertheless, it keeps us excited for the future. We can’t wait to see where Chanel will go in coming years, with a  hope that freshness and boldness will be the leading words of this collaboration.