For Virginie Viard, inspiration comes during walks along the Seine

I cross the Seine almost every day, it gives me a breath of fresh air, a feeling of momentum. It’s like a springboard. And it makes me think of so many different photographs of Paris, showing all kinds of eras and atmospheres. When I worked with my old boss, Karl Lagerfeld, we took a lot of pictures on the docks. Every time he didn’t know where to go, we went down to the river.

I especially enjoy walks in winter when no one is outside. I never go to the park when there are tons of people. I like to feel a bit free: I’ll go anywhere without barriers, barricades, lines. I grew up in Dijon, but spent most of my adult life in Paris, and as Chanel’s artistic director, I couldn’t live anywhere but here. It’s not just because it’s Paris, it’s because of the idea from Paris. It’s wandering, wandering in my head and in the city. The funny thing is that now, every time 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 no longer see things the same way.

Inspiration often comes when I pause. During the week, I think all day about my work — and then, when I’m at home, the ideas come. I take notes on my phone or call one of my team members and say, “Listen, I think this or that. …” Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing anything, but in fact I’m doing it. I can’t go away for the weekend: I need to spend some time in my head, that’s what reassures me.

I am very instinctive. If, all of a sudden, I don’t want to show something, if I don’t dare put it on a mannequin — since it’s me who dresses them in the studio — well, I don’t. That said, I never really have creative blocks; if I allowed myself, I would have them all the time. Instead, I say to myself, “I’m doing a job that I love and I have to keep going.” I’ve always been like that. I know I’m doing the best I can, so if there ever comes a time when it doesn’t work, then I’ll try something else.

I don’t feel like an artist at all. Coco Chanel really invented things; she got rid of the corset. But I think design isn’t like that anymore, everything already exists. So I’m very flexible; I adapt. And I like to do everything. I love decoration almost as much as fashion; I love 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 thing. It’s a way of being.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Producer: Kitten. Hair: Sebastien Le Coroller. Makeup: Carole Hannah. Photo assistant: Mathieu Boutang

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