Chanel Designer Virginie Viard to Exit the Brand


PARIS — Creative director Virginie Viard is set to exit Chanel, the company confirmed to BoF. A new creative organisation “will be announced in due course,” Chanel said.

Teams were informed of Viard’s departure Wednesday afternoon, leaving a brief window to say goodbye to the designer before she departed Chanel’s historic base on Paris’ Rue Cambon, sources told BoF.

Chanel issued a statement by email late Wednesday night. “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, a longtime deputy of Karl Lagerfeld who first joined the house in 1987, took over as artistic director for fashion collections following the German designer’s 2019 death.

Viard presided over Chanel during a historic surge in sales as demand for luxury goods exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company reported 2023 revenues of $19.7 billion in 2023, up more than 75 percent over 2018.

Viard, aged 62, oversaw a sprawling fashion empire including sought-after handbags, fashion jewellery, footwear and more. Ready-to-wear sales have grown by a factor of 2.5 over 2018 levels, according to Chanel, as the designer carried on Lagerfeld’s legacy while subtly re-tailoring signature items like $20,000 tweed jackets with a lighter, more supple silhouette.

Chanel’s 2025 Cruise collection. (Spotlight/Launchmetrics.com)

But if the brand maintained its position as a go-to uniform for wealthy women from birthday dinners to the boardroom, the authority of its runway shows and the high-flying fabulosity of its marketing both seemed to wane. Once untouchable, Chanel became a target for complaints online, both for its runway and red-carpet styling and for the quality of its products as prices soared.

In campaigns, the brand previously known for its crystal clear codes and message moved from concept to concept as Viard experimented each season with photographers Inez and Vinoodh. In a break with luxury fashion’s usual practice, the brand’s art direction seemed to change as often as the clothes.

Viard’s exit is sure to intensify speculation on who might replace her.

At sector leader LVMH, Celine creative director Hedi Slimane — who channels Lagerfeld by photographing his own collections — is said to have been locked in a thorny contract negotiation since last fall that could lead to his exit. Other top designers who are currently free agents include former Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli and former Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton.

C-suite leadership is also in flux at a number of LVMH brands, with Fendi having named Pierre-Emmanuel Angeloglou its new CEO last week and Sidney Toledano reportedly returning to help lead LVMH’s Fashion Group structure just months after stepping down as the unit’s CEO.

Elsewhere, luxury brands are bracing for a rocky year as demand cools from post-pandemic highs in the US and Europe and slower growth and plummeting consumer confidence in China depress sales in what was formerly the industry’s key growth market. Gucci-owner Kering’s first-half profits are likely to plunge by 40 to 45 percent, the group said in April. Sales at Burberry slumped 12 percent in the first three months of 2024.

Even Chanel is adapting to “a more challenging environment,” CFO Philippe Blondiaux recently told BoF. Still, Chanel said it planned to increase capital investments, notably in retail stores and real estate, by at least 50 percent this year. “This period of slowdown, as it’s been characterised by some of our competitors, will offer opportunities, whether it’s in terms of real estate, boutiques, vertical integration of our supply chain, people,” Blondiaux said.



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