For Virginie Viard, Inspiration Comes During Walks by the Seine

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 savor taking walks in the winter when no one’s out. I never go to the park when there’re 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 in that place: “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 and say, “Look, I think this or that. …” 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’ve always been like that. 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 interview has been edited and condensed.

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