Luxury Retailers React to Virginie Viard’s Abrupt Exit From Chanel

Retailers — who believed Chanel artistic director Virginia Viard had been instrumental in Chanel’s success — were surprised to learn Wednesday that she had exited the company. As an important resource at their stores, they are eagerly looking forward to the next chapter.

Chanel sent out a brief statement Wednesday night confirming the 62-year-old Viard’s departure “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 30 years within the house.”

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Viard had shared a close working relationship with her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019, and once stated, “She is my right arm and my left arm.”

In conversations with retailers, they felt she was the right person at the right time to succeed Lagerfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard on the catwalk

Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard on the catwalk.

Stéphane Feugère/WWD

The house said it will name a new creative organization shortly, and that the fall 2024 haute couture collection will be presented as planned on June 25 at the Opera Garnier in Paris.

A spring/summer Chanel ad.

Chanel’s spring/summer ready-to-wear campaign photographed by Inez Vinoodh.

Inez Vinoodh, courtesy of Chanel.

Here’s what retailers had to say about Viard’s departure on Thursday.

Lana Todorovich, chief merchandising officer, Neiman Marcus
“Virginie’s impact on the legacy of Chanel during her nearly 30-year tenure is extraordinary. With elegance and a modern lens, she expanded on the house codes through visionary collections that delighted our customers season after season. During her time as artistic director our long-standing partnership with Chanel grew to even greater heights.”

Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer, Saks Fifth Avenue
“We will remain forever grateful to Virginie for her contributions to Chanel over the last 30 years. Starting at the house as an intern, Virginie was instrumental in carrying forward the iconic legacy of Chanel after Karl Lagerfeld’s passing, bringing forth an incredible knowledge and identity for the brand that kept our Saks clients loyal and engaged. She is a wonderful talent and visionary and we wish her well in her next endeavor, and we look forward to the next chapter for Chanel.”

Linda Fargo, senior vice president, women’s fashion, and store presentations director, Bergdorf Goodman
“We have all been extremely fortunate to have had Virginie Viard there to seamlessly take over the creative reins of the house of Chanel when she did. She knew it better than anyone! Virginie lived and breathed the house and succeeded where others may have stumbled in a big shadow during the daunting transition post-Karl. As artistic director, she managed to breathe a fresh take into the codes while still respecting the heritage. She knew what worked and yet seized upon the moment to inject a modern woman’s take on a new Chanel. We owe her our gratitude and a lifetime of camellias!

Denise Magid, chief merchant, Bloomingdale’s
“Chanel’s growth over the past five years is a testament to Virginie Viard’s talent and impressive leadership as the artistic director at Chanel. Chanel remains an integral component of the luxury experience Bloomingdale’s offers. In company with the rest of the industry, we eagerly anticipate announcements of Viard’s successor. I am confident that they will continue an upward trajectory and expand on our joint success.”

Judd Crane, executive buying director, Selfridges
“Under the artistic direction of Virginie Viard, Chanel has fostered a real sense of connection with different communities. The Métiers d’Art show in Manchester is a recent example of this, bringing the house vision to a new audience while honoring its codes. An announcement of a new artistic director will be an era-defining moment for the industry, and yet another reason to be excited about Chanel, past, present and future.”

Rickie De Sole, vice president, fashion director of Nordstrom
“Fashion is always evolving and Chanel is a brand that endures the test of time. Virginie’s feminine collections resonated well with our customers. She made her mark during her tenure, and we are excited for the next chapter at Chanel.”

Seth Weisser, co-founder of What Goes Around Comes Around

Weissner, whose store specializes in pre-owned luxury goods and lost a trademark infringement case to Chanel earlier this year, said Viard’s departure should boost prices for Chanel goods on the resale market. “Virginie’s departure from Chanel will likely lead to a new evolution for both retail and resale. Her five-year tenure was a gentle bridge from Karl Lagerfeld’s reign and many of Virginie’s collections felt reminiscent of his nearly 30-year era.” The retailer said the introduction of “a totally new perspective can only mean that artifacts from the Karl era will absolutely command higher prices on the resale market going forward.”

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