Her next step brings her 30-year career at Unilever to an end.
By Ashima Sethi
Leena Nair has been named Chanel‘s new global CEO despite not coming from a fashion background. The Indian-born British national is considered a consumer goods veteran with 30 years of experience working at Unilever, most recently as their Chief of Human Resources, in which she oversaw 150,000 people, and as a member of the company’s executive committee.
Many have celebrated Chanel’s decision to hire Nair, as they believe having an individual like her with a background in consumer goods rather than just fashion demonstrates that the globally recognised brand wants to take a more inclusive approach to their business.
Nair follows in the footsteps of Maureen Chiquet, an American businesswoman with a background in fashion who served as the CEO f the luxury French fashion label for nine years until 2016. Alain Wertheimer, the French billionaire who owns Chanel with his brother Gerard, then took on the CEO role on a temporary basis. Now that Nair is stepping in, he will take over the position of Global Executive Chairman.
To express her gratitude for being chosen to lead the tightly-controlled fashion house, Nair tweeted saying: “I am so inspired by what Chanel stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human potential and in acting to have a positive impact in the world.” Chanel has also released a statement, calling Nair “a visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes”.
For those who are unfamiliar with Chanel’s history, the brand was founded in Paris in 1910 by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel as a hat boutique. Over the years, the brand became renowned for its fragrances, pantsuits, and tweed outfits that channel ‘Parisienne chic’, as well as their timeless handbags that remain some of the most sought after accessories in the present time.