In the wake of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld’s death, two big questions remain: 1) who will take care of Choupette and 2) who will take his place at Chanel. The second already has an answer: Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman since the ’80s, will take over, “so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on” according to WWD. To many outside of the fashion industry, Viard is somewhat of an enigma.
She has been by Lagerfeld’s side since 1987, but is more than a mere colleague. She’s allowed to use the informal French tu instead of vous to refer to Karl. Lagerfeld told the Telegraph, “Our relationship is fundamental — one of profound affection and a true friendship.”
She started as an intern at Chanel around the same time as Lagerfeld, working on Haute Couture embroidery. Like many women in Lagerfeld’s entourage, she has a signature look of Kohl-rimmed eyes and often all-black, slim-fitting outfits. She worked her way up with Lagerfeld, and now oversees eight collections for the house a year. When Lagerfeld was alive, she would translate his sketches (which he would sometimes send via text) and ideas into reality. “I coordinate the teams, liaise with suppliers and choose fabrics. Then, of course, I do fittings with Karl. As soon as I receive his sketches, the process begins. I try to please him, but I like to surprise him too,” she told the Telegraph. Because she’s so involved with Lagerfeld’s process, that could mean that the vision for the house will stay similar after his passing.
At Lagerfeld’s final show for the house, she took a bow solo because Lagerfeld was reportedly too tired to attend. However, while Lagerfeld was a larger-than-life personality, Viard prefers to fly under the radar. She told Elle in 2018, “I hate being in the spotlight.” Well, she’ll be more in it now.