The Artist’s Way: Virginie Viard, Fashion Designer

In this special feature, T photographed and interviewed 34 artists from various disciplines about 24 hours in their creative lives.

Article by Zoey Poll

Virginie Viard, designer of Chanel at Pont Royal along the SeineViard, photographed at the Quai des Tuileries in Paris on Feb 1, 2022. Photography by Christopher Anderson.

I cross the Seine most days — it gives me a breath of fresh air, a sense of momentum. It’s like a springboard. And it makes me think of so many different photographs of Paris, showing all sorts of time periods and atmospheres. When I worked with my former boss, Karl Lagerfeld, we would take lots of pictures on the quays. Whenever he didn’t know where to go, we went down to the river. I especially savour taking walks in the winter when no-one’s out. I never go to the park when there are tons of people there.

I like to feel a little bit free: I’ll go anywhere with no gate, no barricades, no line. I grew up in Dijon, but I’ve been in Paris most of my adult life, and as the creative director of Chanel, I couldn’t live anywhere but here. It’s not just because it’s Paris — it’s because of the idea of Paris. It’s the meandering, the wandering about in my head and in the city. The funny thing is that now, whenever I go somewhere, I always imagine a Chanel show there: “What would we do? How could we make it work?” Since I took over this role three years ago, I haven’t seen things in the same way.

Inspiration often comes when I take a break. During the week, I think all day long about my work — and then, when I’m home, the ideas come. I jot down notes on my phone or call one of my team members. Sometimes I feel I’m not doing anything, but I actually am. I can’t go on weekend trips: I need to spend time in my own head — that’s what reassures me.

I’m very instinctive. If, suddenly, I don’t want to show something, if I don’t dare put it on a model — since I’m the one who dresses them in the studio — well, then I don’t do it. That said, I never really have creative blocks; if I allowed myself to, I’d have them all the time. Instead, I say to myself: “I do a job that I love, and I have to keep going.” I know that I do the most I can, so if there comes a moment when it doesn’t work, then I’ll try something else.

I don’t feel like an artist at all. Coco Chanel truly invented things; she got rid of the corset. But I think design isn’t that way anymore — everything already exists. So I’m very flexible; I adapt. And I like to do everything. I love decorating almost as much as fashion; I enjoy everything from putting together a bouquet of flowers to arranging fruits and vegetables. And whether you have a lot or nothing, it’s the same. It’s a way of being.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 76 of T Australia with the headline: “The Artist’s Way”