As Virginie Viard steps down from Chanel, who might replace her?

Designers Hedi Slimane and Pierpaolo Piccioli are two possible contenders

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 22: Chanel Studio Directeor Virginie Viard and a model pose on the runway during the Chanel Spring Summer 2019 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 22, 2019 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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Virginie Viard, the artistic director of Chanel for the past five years has stepped down, it has been announced.

After spending 30 years at the brand, and the last five years at the helm, Viard – who took over from Karl Lagerfeld in 2019 – is leaving. The next haute couture show in June will be her last for the brand. She spent a quarter of a decade working as second-in-command to Lagerfeld, making her the natural successor to take over following his death.

The French luxury house announced: “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.

“A new creative organisation will be announced in due course. Chanel would like to thank Virginie Viard for her remarkable contribution to Chanel’s fashion, creativity and vitality.”

In the past few years, Chanel has enjoyed a surge in sales, hitting a record $20 billion turnover last year. While Viard's designs have proved popular with customers, some have drawn criticism for being too casual, with relaxed cuts and new-for-Chanel materials such as denim.

Her replacement has not yet been named, yet already there are rumours swirling on who will be the next name to lead the storied house.

Hedi Slimane, who is currently at Celine, is being touted as a strong proposition. With speculation rife that the French designer is about to resign from Celine – a brand he has headed since 2018 – a move to take over at Chanel, considered one of the prime houses to be appointed to, would certainly fit with Slimane's ambition.

Having already been in charge at Dior Homme, Saint Laurent and Celine, Slimane at Chanel would be a good addition to his portfolio.

What he would bring to the brand is key. Known for his skinny-fit silhouette, which he has imposed on all three houses under his charge, he will likely bring this same aesthetic to Chanel, alongside a focus on rigorous tailoring.

With the house famously founded by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel to free women from tight, restrictive clothing, any hint at a return would be in opposition to those principles. However, Slimane’s skill at whipping up shopper frenzy for his distinctive looks, is well documented, as is his ability to transform a house into an “It” brand.

Another candidate could be Pierpaolo Piccioli, who left his role as creative director at Valentino in March, after spending 25 years at the brand.

Known for bringing a sense of romance to his work, the Italian designer is adept at mixing colours and textures into grand statement pieces. While eye-catching, these are not the leading aspects of Chanel, which promotes understated chic.

With the ink on news of Viard's departure still hardly dry, it may be too early to speculate on her successor. Yet, as we know, the fashion industry feeds on constant change. It remains to be seen where that change takes Chanel and its loyal fans.

Updated: June 06, 2024, 8:20 AM