Who will replace Virginie Viard at Chanel?

These potential candidates are not only well-known, but qualified.

Virginie Viard was the creative director of Chanel from 2019 to 2024 (Photo: Karl Lagerfeld)

It is official: Virginie Viard and Chanel are parting ways. As soon as the news broke on June 5, speculation over who will replace Karl Lagerfeld’s apprentice-turned-head of the revered French luxury house and guide Chanel into a new chapter spread like wildfire across social media. Amongst the several names being tossed around, a select few appear to be in high-demand. John Galliano, JW Anderson, Olivier Rousteing — all some of now’s hottest creatives. 

That said, all of these designers have held the top artistic position at their current brands for a decade or more. That, combined with recent successes — the ultra-viral porcelain doll makeup looks done by Pat McGrath for Galliano’s Spring 2024 couture for Margiela, Rousteing’s fan-favourite sand dress worn by South-African singer Tyla for the Met Gala, and JW Anderson’s listing in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for the year — mean they show no signs of shifting elsewhere yet. 

Here are five names who we think could very well be in the running for the coveted lead spot at Chanel, and why they should be on the list.


Pierpaolo Piccioli


Pierpaolo Piccioli

We’ll start this guessing game off with yet another people’s (and personal) choice — Italian designer and Valentino’s former top dog, Pierpaolo Piccioli. 

After an illustrious 25 years at the storied luxury house, the last eight spent as the sole creative director after co-director Maria Grazia Chiuri left for Dior, his resignation announcement in March came as a shock to many. The media buzz that swiftly ensued in the following weeks was filled with theories of who would replace the revered Roman (Alessandro Michele has since been tapped) and more importantly, where he would go next.

There are several reasons, aside from his immense popularity and prominence, why Piccioli would be a frontrunner for Chanel. His masterful use of colour as well as textiles and adornments demonstrates his keen eye for detail and ability to completely transform a look through even the simplest of additions. The butter yellows and ruby reds seen in his Spring 2017 collection foretold two of this year’s most fashionable colours, while the hot fuchsia ‘Pink PP’ line for Autumn 2022 remains one of the most iconic releases in recent years. 

While at Valentino, Piccioli’s talents also amassed a group of celebrity devotees — model Kaia Gerber was frequently spotted on his runways, while actresses and It-girls Florence Pugh and Zendaya have donned sparkling ensembles by him at red carpets and movie premieres. A true artist also never shies away from using their craft as a medium for advocacy, and based on his 2019 recreation of a Cecil Beaton photograph using all Black models, Piccioli may very well be the daring yet tasteful force Chanel needs.


Sarah Burton


Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, has worn Burton’s McQueen on several occasions

If by chance Chanel is crossing the English Channel for its next virtuoso, there is perhaps no one better than Sarah Burton to do the job. The natural successor to mentor Lee Alexander McQueen’s eponymous label, the Central Saint Martins graduate shaped the British fashion house into the sleek, edgy entity it is today. 

Burton’s dramatic melancholy style and versatility garnered the attention of many. Under her, lush florals in saturation tones met sombre skull motifs and severe, structured silhouettes became a McQueen hallmark. Still, her gowns were as glamorous as they were often avant-garde, earning her the favour of some of the 21st Century’s biggest fashion inspirations. Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, has worn Burton’s McQueen on several occasions, including a ballgown with lace sleeves for her 2011 wedding to Prince William. 

She was also the force behind the red draped number for Michelle Obama for a 2011 state dinner with former Chinese president Hu Jintao, Lady Gaga’s fitted black mermaid dress for the 2019 Academy Awards where she was nominated for Best Actress and won Best Original Song, as well as several of Beyonce’s Renaissance tour looks, including a figure-hugging sparkly burgundy piece with matching thigh-high boots. 

Now, some may argue that Burton’s work is much too grunge and grim for Chanel, especially following Viard’s eclectic boho approach that was, if anything, abundantly French. However, her skill for tailoring and suiting aligns with the house’s codes while her penchant for theatrical dressmaking may make her the ideal midpoint between tradition and innovation. 


Marc Jacobs

New York is the nucleus of the American fashion scene, and Marc Jacobs lies at the heart of it all. Say what you want about the flamboyant designer and his namesake brand recognised for extra feminine floral perfumes and affordable accessories, his strong influence over global style trends is unshakable.  

While it can be argued that Jacobs’ work is much too girly and trendy to suit Chanel, his “uncanny ability to identify the mood of a time, to give shape and form to what was yet unvoiced”, as said by The New York Times, makes him more than just a creative, but a trendsetter too. The proof is in pudding: fashion and visual arts have never been more intertwined than now and Jacobs helped spearhead this movement with his SS/01 Graffiti by Stephan Sprouse collection for Louis Vuitton.

The closing defence here would be Jacobs’ track record of hosting dramatic, prop-filled runways – anyone remember the life-size steam train that chugged its way onto Louis Vuitton’s Winter 2012 catwalk? These grand, over-the-top settings have the ability to temporarily transport audiences and whisk them away on a fantastical journey, which we must say, is awfully Karl Lagerfeld-like. 


Phoebe Philo


A look from Philo's second collection

The art of the comeback is no easy feat, and if there is one individual who has recently re-emerged from the shadows with great success, it would be Phoebe Philo. Rarely ever has there been a designer who amassed such an adoring, almost cult-like following of devotees that not only named themselves after her (“Philophiles” is the official term), but remained undyingly faithful even after several years of inactivity in the fashion scene. 

Prior to launching her own eponymous label in October 2023, Philo has been the artistic director of Chloé and most famously Celine. During her tenure at the latter, she gained much notice for her elegant collections filled with staples with a tinge of subversiveness — asymmetrical plisse skirts and abstract brushstroke prints were the highlights of Spring 2012, while the 2010 edition saw sophisticated women’s daywear tailored down to the centimetre.

It can be said that among all the names on this list, Philo might be one of the safest choices for Chanel because let us face it, maximalist or otherwise, quality basics never go out of style and no closet is complete without a few. Though her most recent work is on the sensual, even suggestive side, her quintessential understatedness shines through, allowing for the clothing to speak for itself, plain and clear. 


Hedi Slimane


Celine FW24 by Hedi Slimane

Juggling two jobs at the same time is by no means unheard of in the fashion industry — just look at Kim Jones and Miuccia Prada, who head Fendi and Dior Homme as well as Prada and Miu Miu respectively. That said, it must certainly be easier to acquire a designer who is not already tied to another house. So, when rumours that Hedi Slimane will soon leave Celine after a six year stint began circulating in April, one cannot help but wonder if a hop to another reputable French label is on the cards. 

Slimane’s Celine is recognisable by its chic, effortless vibe. That said, while Philo’s era was marked by sleek, refined versions of women’s daywear, her successor breathed youth and playfulness back into the brand. His were the designs of the “cool kid” archetype, if that kid was sleazy Parisian bourgeoisie of course. Glitzy 1980s-inspired party looks, rebellious dark leather accents and splashes of vivid colours and glaring prints are some of his signature elements. After five years of a shy, poised Chanel, a little grit and grime could be fun to see. 

Celine is not Slimane’s only notable performance. He has helmed Saint Laurent, dressing the likes of Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Emma Stone and more, as well as lead Dior Homme, where he famously sent ultra-skinny, clingy men’s jeans down the 2007 Spring runway. 

Perhaps the most brow-raising fact is that Slimane has a notable watchmaking experience under his belt – Dior’s first-ever automatic timepiece, the Chiffre Rouge, was overseen by him. And with Chanel taking up more and more space in the world of luxury horology, it certainly couldn’t hurt to loop in someone who knows what they are doing. 


Looking forward

No discussion about designers moving houses is complete without the reminder that for several years, the same handful of big names have been rotated time and time again, and that these people are often male, white and possess some level of power and status. 

It is entirely possible that Chanel will take a different route with its selection process and sign a lesser-known but indisputably capable person (we must say that Emma Victoria Payne, who recently became a household name in the UK for Olivia Henson’s wedding dress, could have just the artistry required to do Chanel’s haute couture and Metiers D’art justice). 

For all we know, the coming weeks or months could very well reveal a secret heir — a protégé who has been training under Viard for years, the same way she did with Lagerfeld – waiting in the wings for the right moment to shine. Chanel is, after all, a house of codes and traditions. 


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