It feels just as strange to celebrate Lagerfeld, a symbol of fashion’s old guard, as it does to ignore this news. Lagerfeld was simultaneously a creative inspiration and a problematic favorite; these things aren’t mutually exclusive—in fact, they often aren’t. We’d be remiss not to reflect on the gamut of art Lagerfeld contributed to our world. And we’d be just as remiss not to celebrate the woman set to follow in his footsteps: Virginie Viard.
Viard has, by Lagerfeld’s own suggestion, served as the former creative director’s right and left hands since the pair began working together at Chanel in 1987. “I immediately dispatch each sketch to each première d’atelier, according to her skills and capabilities. I visualize the show, get things ready for him, decide on materials, coordinate the teams, and liaise with suppliers,” Viard told Elle in November 2018. “I like to think of myself as the one who helps his vision come alive.”
Viard and Lagerfeld spent five years at Chanel before moving to Chloé together in 1992, and then returning to Chanel (together, again) in 1997. “I try to—to anticipate what he would like. I love to please him but also surprise him,” Viard continued in her Elle interview. “[Lagerfeld] is very sensitive, like all creative people, but very faithful, generous—which might not be what people would guess.”
In a moment when we’re struggling to reconcile the fact that someone who created so many beautiful things is also credited with saying things like, “No one wants to see round women” (a comment Lagerfeld made in response to the debate over too-thin models in the industry), it feels good—productive, even—to direct our focus toward his successor. Toward Chanel’s new guard.
There’s something promising in the notion that the person inheriting Lagerfeld’s sartorial fortune is an accomplished woman, given that so much of the controversy Lagerfeld has been embroiled in over the years has largely (but not exclusively) had to do with women, their bodies and their appearances. And we’re looking forward to admiring the myriad creations Viard will undoubtedly contribute to Chanel’s longstanding legacy.
Remembering some of Karl Lagerfeld’s most iconic fashion moments, below: