UPDATE: As W Magazine notes, Viard will be joined at the helm of Chanel’s fashion branch by Eric Pfrunder. If Viard was Lagerfeld’s right hand, Pfrunder was his left — both men began working at Chanel in 1983 and retained an intimate friendship throughout their time at the house.
To illustrate their close relationship. WWD describes a story from 1987. At the time, Pfrunder dared Lagerfeld to pick up a camera to prove that The Kaiser could take better photos for a press kit, perhaps inadvertently sparking Lagerfeld’s interest in photographer later in life. “I said to Karl, ‘OK, now you do it,’” Pfrunder recalled.
Pfrunder’s official title will be artistic director of fashion image, while Viard will be artistic director of fashion collection, asserts Business of Fashion. Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer released a statement that “confirms his confidence in the team that worked with Karl Lagerfeld for over 30 years.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Early this morning, news broke that legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld had passed away at the age of 85. Chanel, in the midst of honoring the prolific creative, confirmed on Instagram that it has selected a designer to follow Lagerfeld’s unmatched 36-year run with the fashion house.
Virginie Viard, a relative unknown compared to the household name that is Lagerfeld, will take over as Chanel’s creative director. As Fashionista notes, fashion insiders have long speculated about Lagerfeld’s eventual replacement, tossing around names like Marc Jacobs, Haider Ackermann and one of Lagerfeld’s all-time favorite designers, Hedi Slimane. In the early aughts, Lagerfeld released a dietary book, explaining that his main motivation for losing weight was to fit in one of Slimane’s infamously-trim Dior Homme suits.
For most of his time at Chanel, Lagerfeld worked alongside Viard to develop the multiple yearly collections. She also took bows with him at the end of many recent shows, including the Spring 2019 haute couture collection that Lagerfeld wasn’t able to attend due to sickness. For now, it seems that the iconic brand is in good hands.
Read Chanel’s complete statement, including Viard’s confirmation, in the Instagram post below, along with the house’s Spring/Summer 2019 presentation, which culminated with Lagerfeld taking a bow alongside Viard.
View this post on Instagram
It is with deep sadness that the House of CHANEL announces the passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the Creative Director for the CHANEL Fashion House since 1983. An extraordinary creative individual, Karl Lagerfeld reinvented the brand’s codes created by Gabrielle Chanel: the CHANEL jacket and suit, the little black dress, the precious tweeds, the two-tone shoes, the quilted handbags, the pearls and costume jewelry. Regarding Gabrielle Chanel, he said, “My job is not to do what she did, but what she would have done. The good thing about Chanel is it is an idea you can adapt to many things.” A prolific creative mind with endless imagination, Karl Lagerfeld explored many artistic horizons, including photography and short films. The House of CHANEL benefited from his talent for all the branding campaigns related to Fashion since 1987. Finally, one cannot refer to Karl Lagerfeld without mentioning his innate sense of repartee and self-mockery. Alain Wertheimer, CEO of CHANEL, said: “Thanks to his creative genius, generosity and exceptional intuition, Karl Lagerfeld was ahead of his time, which widely contributed to the House of CHANEL’s success throughout the world. Today, not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind to whom I gave carte blanche in the early 1980s to reinvent the brand.” Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at CHANEL, said: “Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the House of CHANEL. He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of CHANEL’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world. The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by – to quote Karl – ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’.” Virginie Viard, Director of CHANEL’s Fashion Creation Studio and Karl Lagerfeld’s closest collaborator for more than 30 years, has been entrusted by Alain Wertheimer with the creative work for the collections, so that the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can live on.