The fashion world is reeling at the news that Chanel’s artistic director, Virginie Viard, will depart the House after five years.

Viard – who began with Chanel in 1987 as an intern – was appointed the esteemed role in 2019, following Karl Lagerfeld’s death. She was only the third person to assume the role in the House’s long history, after Lagerfeld and Coco Chanel herself.

The House confirmed the end of Viard’s reign to Vogue Business, announcing, “Chanel confirms the departure of Virginie Viard after a rich collaboration of five years as artistic director of fashion collections, during which she was able to renew the codes of the house while respecting the creative heritage of Chanel, and almost thirty years within the house. A new creative organisation will be announced in due course. Chanel would like to thank Virginie Viard for her remarkable contribution to Chanel’s fashion, creativity and vitality.”

During her tenure, Viard ushered in a new era for the House, defined by understated elegance, and a cool, youthful energy. This chapter, while fresh, was also firmly rooted in history. In particular, Viard paid homage to the kind of feminism that Coco Chanel founded the brand on in 1910, with freeing, pragmatic, and sometimes edgy designs at the fore.

In addition to the designs themselves, helping to bring this vision to life throughout Viard’s reign was a guard of ambassadors, hand-picked for their embodiment of this cool, pared-back direction. So, in honour of her fiercely feminist era at the helm of Chanel, we’re paying tribute to Viard by rounding up the women who fronted the House throughout her tenure.