By Pameyla Cambe

Who Will Take Fashion’s Most Coveted Position Right Now?

Virginie Viard's departure from Chanel has people guessing on who will fill those shoes.
Virginie Viard has stepped down as creative director of Chanel (Photo: Chanel)
Virginie Viard has stepped down as creative director of Chanel (Photo: Chanel)

It’s the end of an era: Virginie Viard has stepped down from her role as creative director of Chanel

The French luxury brand has shared the following statement regarding Viard’s departure: “Chanel confirms the departure of Virginie Viard after a rich collaboration of five years as Artistic Director of Fashion collections, during which she was able to renew the codes of the House while respecting the creative heritage of Chanel, and almost thirty years within the House.”

Viard had joined Chanel in 1987, when Karl Lagerfeld was the French fashion house’s creative director. Although she mostly stayed out of the spotlight, Viard worked closely with Lagerfeld as his right-hand woman during his long and influential tenure at the maison. In 2000, she became the director of Chanel’s creation studio, and was put in charge of overseeing Chanel’s many collections for haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessories. 

Following Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, Viard was chosen as his successor at Chanel, becoming only the second woman, after founder Gabrielle Chanel, to lead the brand. Viard spent the next five years honouring Lagerfeld’s legacy, while also injecting the brand with a sense of freedom, lightness, as well as a rock and roll edge that reflected her music tastes.

According to WWD, the brand’s ready-to-wear business multiplied under Viard’s tenure; it grew 23 per cent in the last year. Commercial success aside, the 62-year-old designer has also faced a lot of criticism from the online fashion crowd for not measuring up to her predecessor. Her Chanel Cruise 2025 collection, which marks her last collection for the brand, received many negative comments on social media. In response to the news, fashion editor Suzy Menkes wrote, “Virginie should be congratulated, not reviled, for keeping Karl’s flag flying. And with an interest in art and music, she can find a more attractive life than being criticised for not being Mr Lagerfeld.”

Which begs the question: who can be the next Mr. Lagerfeld? 

Hedi Slimane is said to be a top pick, according to industry insiders. In April, fashion journalist Dana Thomas reported in her newsletter that Slimane, who is currently the creative director of Celine, is headed to Chanel. According to The Business of Fashion, the Celine designer has been locked in “a thorny contract negotiation with owner LVMH that could lead to the designer’s departure from the brand”. 

At Celine, Slimane has maintained a sophisticated French aesthetic for his womenswear collections, populated with covetable tweed jackets and leather bags with chain straps. His most recent women’s collection, for Fall/Winter 2024, offered a polished take on ‘60s chic: models wore A-line dresses, skirt suits and pearl necklaces. Just as Lagerfeld transformed Chanel into the luxury powerhouse it is today, Slimane has also expanded Celine’s offerings to include a fragrance collection and a beauty line, both defined by his vision for the brand.

Celine Fall/Winter 2024 collection, designed by Hedi Slimane (Photo: Celine)
Celine Fall/Winter 2024 collection, designed by Hedi Slimane (Photo: Celine)

Chanel also has a few other options to consider for its creative director position: Pierpaolo Piccioli, who exited Valentino in March, and Sarah Burton, who left her top post at Alexander McQueen last year, are both brought up in discussion of Viard’s successor within the fashion industry. 

Slimane, however, remains a strong contender, and not just for his understanding of French chic that lies at the very heart of Chanel. At the helm of Celine, and at Saint Laurent before that, Slimane has showcased his business acumen and technical prowess as a fashion designer, both of which are qualities that Lagerfeld had demonstrated at Chanel. Lagerfeld himself was a fan of Slimane: he famously revealed that he lost weight to fit into the skinny suits that Slimane designed for Dior’s menswear label in the early 2000s.

Slimane, in many ways, might just be the right fit for Chanel.

This story first appeared on GRAZIA Singapore.