Berliner Tageblatt - Chanel at fashion week without sacked designer Viard

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Chanel at fashion week without sacked designer Viard
Chanel at fashion week without sacked designer Viard / Photo: © AFP

Chanel at fashion week without sacked designer Viard

Awkward! Chanel was set to hold its haute couture show on Tuesday just three weeks after the very abrupt departure of creative director Virginie Viard after almost 30 years with the brand.

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Viard worked alongside the legendary Karl Lagerfeld for years before taking over at the helm after his death in 2019.

She oversaw record sales of nearly $20 billion last year. But a crisis had been brewing for months, with sceptical pouts on the front row and murmurs that her shows were growing repetitive.

The situation exploded in May when a mid-season "cruise" show in Marseille failed to impress fans -- not helped by the unseasonably cold weather on the Cote d'Azur.

"What the hell is going on? Bad cuts and fabrics? The shoes?!" protested one internet user. Another called it "lazy".

A month later, Viard's departure was announced in less than elegant form -- revealed to the specialist press in the middle of the night.

It was later revealed that Viard would not even be present for her last couture show, which would instead by handled by her team.

Paris-based designer Lutz Huelle told AFP he sympathised with her situation.

"Regardless of what anyone thinks about her work of the last five years, she found herself in the far-from-simple situation of having to, from one day to the next, replace one of the biggest and best-loved designers at the biggest brand in the world -- a literally impossible task," he said.

"I can't imagine Karl working with someone for all these years without that person doing a great job," he added.

- Discreet presence -

Viard's takeover was seen as a temporary appointment at the time, although she was only the third creative director in Chanel's 114-year history after Lagerfeld and its founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

Always dressed simply, in a T-shirt and black trousers, she was a far more discreet presence than "The Kaiser", known for his provocative statements.

Her shows were much less spectacular than Lagerfeld's extravaganzas and commentators were often highly critical of her cuts and taste.

That never put off buyers, who still flocked to Chanel stores -- sales were up 14.6 percent to $19.7 billion last year.

Ready-to-wear sales increased 23 percent during Viard's five-year tenure.

"It underscored the fact the brand is much stronger than the individual designer," wrote Business of Fashion.

The fashion world now turns to its favourite pastime -- speculation over who will succeed.

Among the names circulating are Hedi Slimane (Celine), known for his rocker aesthetic, raising the possibility of a move into menswear for the first time.

Other possibilities are French designers Marine Serre or Simon Porte Jacquemus, who have both found great success with their own brands.

Pierpaolo Piccioli, who left Valentino four months ago, and Britain's Sarah Burton, who designed Princess Catherine's wedding dress, are also seen as possible candidates.