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How Has Chanel Changed?

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Karl Lagerfeld to Virginie Viard, how has Chanel changed..?

After Karl Lagerfeld passed away just over a year ago some might have expected Chanel to dramatically change.

Lagerfeld had worked at Chanel for nearly 40 years and was incredibly influential at Chanel and on the fashion community at large. It might have been considered that Viard would want to change Chanel’s aesthetic to one that mirrored her taste but Viard has been at Chanel for over 30 years. Lagerfeld once said “She is my right arm and my left arm”.

This means that her taste is incredibly similar to Lagerfeld’s, her influence has played a large part in the production of 10 collections a year for many years. Chanel truly shows the art of continuity in her appointment.

"...fresher and more feminine."

Viard, up until her appointment, flew relatively under the radar. Considering that her and Lagerfeld were joint at the hip you would think that she would have been as famous as he was. But she always shied away from the limelight, leaving it to Karl. In fact the two have had such a fruitful working career together that they both moved to Chloe and back to Chanel together. That being said, her collections have felt fresher and more feminine, with less pomp and circumstance. But in reality that might just be because we are looking at them with fresh eyes. Especially as she has been involved with nearly all of the collections for as long as I can remember!

For the first year with her at the realm she focussed on Lagerfeld’s legacy, each collection was in his style and allowed for the fashion community to properly grieve. Lagerfeld’s legacy will of course be long reaching, this year of mourning allowed Viard to develop her own style.

"...more minimalistic and unpolished -"

Her Haute Couture collection, this past January, moved from one person’s legacy to another, the collection was inspired by Gabrielle Chanel. Virginie Viard is the first woman to lead Chanel since Gabrielle Chanel so it is only fitting that this collection was inspired by her. This collection showed the mixture of Gabrielle’s humble beginnings and the careful image that Lagerfeld developed. The result - a slightly more minimalistic and unpolished version of Classic Chanel.

The setting of this collection was a recreation of the orphanage that Gabrielle spent 6 years in after her mother died. It was natural and unpolished, it showed a side to Chanel long forgotten under Lagerfeld’s perfecting eye. Instead it was more approachable, it showed that Chanel can be worn anywhere you like, while honouring the founder and allowing Viard to step out from underneath Lagerfeld’s shadow. The couture collection said so much while being a stunning collection in it’s own right.

The setting, the collection and even the make up was simpler which reflects the two leaders’ personalities. Viard herself is simpler and quieter than Largerfeld, she personified the famous Gabrielle Chanel saying “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

The designs themselves were simple, usually monochrome and clearly inspired by Gabrielle’s time at the orphanage through school-ground chic. Even just looking at the shoes, they were a twist on the classic chanel shoes, turned into schools shoes with black ribbon lacing and chunky white socks.

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