Chanel: who to write the House’s new creative page?

For the first time in five years, Chanel is faced with a vacancy in its artistic direction. This empty throne fuels the wildest rumors on the web and behind the scenes. We take a closer look at the most credible and available contenders for this jewel of Haute Couture.


Gabrielle Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Virginie Viard…


Since the sudden death of Karl Lagerfeld in 2019 and the impromptu departure last week of his successor, Virginie Viard, there has been one position to fill that is unparalleled in both its aura and its demands: that of artistic director at Chanel.


The task is not an easy one, either in terms of pace (8 collections a year, compared to 17 under Karl Lagerfeld) or stylistic consistence, since the successful candidate will a priori have less latitude than the Kaiser to inscribe his personality within this prestigious line.


Judging by the relative brevity of her stint (from February 2019 to June 2024), Virginie Viard could well have been chosen to ensure the regency of post-Lagerfeld creative power. If this is the case, the expectations placed on the new recruit, particularly in terms of communication and storytelling, could be much higher than for the polymath’s former right-hand man, based at Quai Voltaire.


Faced with this challenge of the creative omniscience imposed by the position, the pretenders to the throne could nonetheless benefit from the precedent set by Karl Lagerfeld on his arrival… They could thus hope for a mirific contract inspired by the “carte blanche” that the German designer had demanded in no uncertain terms in 1983 to awaken the slumbering brand with the double C.


Alessandro Michele has a certain flamboyance and communications know-how, and like the Kaiser, a taste for the baroque. His recent recruitment by Valentino, however, rules out any such likelihood.


Hedi Slimane, the superstar spiritual son


Among all the names, there’s one that’s so obvious – perhaps too obvious – that he’s been the subject of all the rumors in this creative succession affair: Hedi Slimane. The couturier-photographer-stylist was known to be a close friend of Karl Lagerfeld. Commenting on his arrival at Celine, Lagerfeld said, “He’s a real friend, not a vague connection. I’ve missed him. He’s brilliant.” Karl Lagerfeld had made no secret of his admiration for Hedi Slimane’s work at Dior Homme and Saint Laurent. Legend has it that if the Kaiser had decided to go on the most draconian of diets and lose 40 kilos in 14 months, it was to fit into Hedi Slimane’s ultra-slim suits.


Karl Lagerfeld wasn’t the only one to endorse Hedi Slimane. Christian Lacroix, with whom Hedi Slimane had worked for a year, had already told Daily Front Row in 2016, “If it’s possible, I’d like to see him at Dior or Chanel”. He added “I know he was close to Karl and Karl is smart enough to say one day if Hedi could be the one to take over his work. I don’t know, but for me, he deserves such Houses.”


Hedi Slimane © Dior Homme


At Saint Laurent (2012-2016), Hedi Slimane modernized the House’s codes and silhouette with a rocking, festive attitude with – his trademark – an “ambisexual” aesthetic of skinny jeans and slim jackets. His dazzling move helped the House boost its sales to 974 million euros in 2015.


Upon his arrival at Celine, the marketing genius with the rocker look had incurred the wrath of philophiles following the departure of their muse Phoebe Philo, who had restored the fashion credibility of the Maison and with whom he had worked for ten years. Despite his predecessor’s strong contribution to the brand’s $800 million valuation, he chose to wipe the slate clean of her Instagram communications, while revamping the Parisian House’s visual identity and logo. Like an absolute rockstar, Hedi Slimane had hoped to proceed – unsuccessfully – as he had at Saint Laurent, namely to move the creative studios to his Los Angeles stronghold. A resident of California, Hedi Slimane is geographically close to Hollywood, a serious asset for Chanel, which never misses an opportunity to support the seventh art (loans of costumes from its archives, sponsorship, para-advertising commitments). Chanel’s color palettes, with their emphasis on black, are also very coherent. Faced with the controversy generated by the déjà-vu aesthetic of his first show for Celine, “Journal nocturne de la jeunesse parisienne”, Hedi Slimane declared, “I’ve found my style, or maybe it’s the other way around. Over 20 years ago. My style is based on a line, a stroke, an allure and a silhouette that I’ve been obsessively pursuing ever since, and which defines who I am.” The designer thus applied the same rock and youth culture formula to bring Celine as close to locomotive status as Louis Vuitton.


Whether a coincidence of timing or a rendezvous with destiny, Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Celine, which began in January 2018, has come to an end. Owner of the luxury ready-to-wear and accessories house, LVMH may nevertheless be tempted to sanctuary its poster boy as it did with Nicolas Ghesquière, extending his contract at Louis Vuitton for a further five years. For the investigative media Glitz, the restrictive dimension of his contract, covering not only the product but also the image of the House, would however complicate his eventual transfer.


Pierpaolo Piccioli, the tormented colorist


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Featured Photo : Montage  © Valois Vintage Paris

Picture of Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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