Trend icon Chanel chooses Indian-born Leena Nair as CEO

NEW DELHI (AP) — The luxurious trend home Chanel has chosen Leena Nair, an business outsider from India and longtime government at Unilever, to be its new CEO.

Nair tweeted that she was “humbled and honored to be appointed the World Chief Government Officer of @CHANEL, an iconic and admired firm.” 

The information made an enormous splash Wednesday in India, Nair’s birthplace, the place she obtained scores of congratulations and compliments to her announcement, one calling her a “serial glass-ceiling breaker.” 

The appointment is filled with “historic firsts,” mentioned Abhay Gupta, CEO and founding father of consultancy group Luxurious Join in India. 

“I’m elated. That is the primary time an Indian is heading a worldwide luxurious model, that too an Indian lady, and it’s the primary time a trend business outsider has been picked,” he mentioned. 

Individuals of Indian origin are on the helm of quite a few world tech, finance and different corporations, however the identical can’t be mentioned for luxurious manufacturers. Gupta, who additionally runs a college for luxurious administration, mentioned his college students can be “impressed” by the information. 

“It’s very encouraging and motivating, particularly since we haven’t seen this earlier than. Coming from a non-luxury background, I count on she’ll deliver recent perspective — it’s an indication that issues are altering,” he mentioned.

Whereas Nair, 52, shouldn’t be part of the Paris trend scene, Chanel has a variety of merchandise along with its excessive trend designs, together with eyeglasses, watches and make-up.

Nair is succeeding billionaire co-owner and chairman of privately held Chanel, Alain Wertheimer, as CEO. A grandson of Chanel co-founder Pierre Wertheimer, he stays as world government chairman of the style home. 

In a press announcement, Chanel mentioned Nair’s hiring “will additional guarantee long-term success as a personal firm.” Nair is because of step into her new function in January and she or he’ll be primarily based in London. 

British client items large Unilever describes Nair as its first lady, first Asian and youngest chief human assets officer. She joined Unilever in 1992 in India and superior up the ranks, spending time on the firm’s factories early on. 

Nair’s appointment is “a welcome change from the sort of formulaic mannequin of the executives that are likely to run main luxurious manufacturers,” mentioned Imran Amed, founder and CEO of the Enterprise of Trend, an influential business information web site. 

Whereas it’s not unusual for trend manufacturers to faucet individuals from client items corporations for senior jobs, they often come from advertising and marketing departments due to their experience in managing manufacturers — a luxurious trend firm’s most necessary asset.

However Chanel’s choice to rent Nair, together with her prolonged background in human assets, underscores the corporate’s efforts to adapt to evolving client and office attitudes towards sustainability and variety, Amed mentioned.

Rivals like Kering, which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, have moved quicker to stake out “management positions” with regards to each rising client consciousness of the business’s environmental affect and the significance of inclusive hiring as they battle for expertise, Amed mentioned. 

Nair has “actually been centered on these sorts of matters throughout her time at Unilever,” Amed mentioned. “I believe that that indicators a extremely necessary problem for Chanel because it seeks to modernize its company tradition.” 

Her appointment is seen again residence as an indication of the rising stature of Indian enterprise leaders. It is also a milestone for ladies, as a result of so few of them head up huge luxurious manufacturers, Amed mentioned. 

In her social media posts, Nair, who’s married to monetary entrepreneur Kumar Nair and has two sons, has described India-born former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi as a pal and mentor. Nair herself just lately was awarded the Nice British Businesswoman Function Mannequin of the 12 months award.

However she shouldn’t be the primary lady to be CEO of Chanel. Earlier, Francoise Montenay and American Maureen Chiquet held that function. And naturally, the co-founder of Maison de Chanel was a lady, the late Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.


AP Enterprise Writers Kurtenbach reported from Bangkok and Kelvin Chan contributed from London.

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