Chanel Names Virginie Viard and Eric Pfrunder as New Artistic Directors After Karl Lagerfeld’s Passing
They’re both from within the company.
It’s been a week since fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld passed away, leaving behind his legacy at Chanel and Fendi, his cat Choupette, and plenty of quotes to remember him by. Now, after originally announcing that Lagerfeld’s right-hand person and studio chief, Virginie Viard, would continue his work, Chanel has clarified who will lead the brand creatively, and it turns out that Viard will have some help.
Not only will Viard step up in his place, so will image director Eric Pfrunder. In a press release, Chanel shared that it will be run by the co–artistic directors, as Business of Fashion notes (Viard will officially be artistic director of fashion collection, while Pfrunder will be artistic director of fashion image). Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer has also given a statement that “confirms his confidence in the team that worked with Karl Lagerfeld for over 30 years.”
Viard is a natural choice as a leader at Chanel, having started at the fashion house back in 1987, just a handful of years after Lagerfeld took the helm, and then gone with Lagerfeld to Chloé in 1992 before returning to Chanel and, eventually, becoming the studio chief there. Viard, who began her career at Chanel as an intern, was hired upon the recommendation of a chamberlain to Prince Rainier of Monaco.
As Lagerfeld said of Viard last year in the Netflix documentary 7 Days Out, “Virginie is the most important person, not only for me but also for the atelier, for everything. She is my right arm, and even if I don’t see her, we are on the phone all the time.” Lagerfeld also shared the spotlight with her at some of Chanel’s shows, where the pair took bows together. At Chanel’s most recent haute couture show, Viard took a bow alone as Lagerfeld’s health prohibited him from being present.
Pfrunder will continue to oversee matters like advertising, marketing, films, events, and digital effort. A longtime Chanel veteran, Pfrunder may very well be the reason Lagerfeld embarked on a side career as a photographer later in life. According to WWD, back in 1987, Lagerfeld once complained to Pfrunder about the quality of images used in a press kit, so Pfrunder dared him to pick up a camera and try himself. “I said to Karl, ‘Okay, now you do it,’” he said. Both Pfrunder and Lagerfeld started at Chanel in 1983, and Lagerfeld had considered Pfrunder, along with Viard, as part of the stable of leaders at the company.
The appointment of two of Lagerfeld’s closest collaborators is also a testament to the designer’s legacy. He leaves the house, which between the death of its founder, Coco Chanel, and his own arrival was often on rocky footing, as strong as it’s ever been, and the appointments are a vote of confidence that there’s no pressing need to pursuit anything wildly different.