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Photo by Marguerite Bornhauser for Chanel
In an unexpected announcement Tuesday, Chanel announced new leadership by tapping Unilever"s UL Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Leena Nair for Global Chief Executive Officer succeeding Alain Wertheimer. He will become Global Executive Chairman of Chanel.
This new partnership at the helm of the company, appointed by The Board of Chanel Limited (UK), will further ensure long-term success as a private company, believing in the freedom of creation, cultivating human potential, và acting to lớn have a positive impact in the world." Chanel said in a press release Tuesday.
While Nair"s background may seem unusual, it"s becoming more và more the case with luxury fashion. Until recently, a more likely candidate was often candidates from the fashion sector, essentially life-long merchants. According to lớn Robert Burke of Robert Burke and Associates, a retail consulting firm in New York, it"s on the way to being the norm.
"Luxury brands are becoming such big businesses in the past few years that we have seen a shift of appointing CEOs from outside the industry," he notes, referencing Antonio Belloni. The Italian executive was one of the first to kick off the trend. He came to LVMH khổng lồ be the managing director in 2001 after serving as President of Proctor và Gamble Europe. In 2017 Ralph Lauren plucked P và G Beauty Group Manager Patrice Louvet to become the President and CEO of the classic American fashion brand. Even fashion-centric Dior CEO Pietro Beccari, who has been with LVMHsince 2006 when he joined asExecutive Vice-President marketing and Communications for Louis Vuitton, originally worked in General Management at Henkel in Germany, where he was Corporate Vice-President for Haircare.
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"What they are looking for is intensive corporate experience," Burke continues. "It"sa misnomer that people who don"t come from the fashion world couldn"t understand it. It"s not the case; luxury is consumer goods."
Jean-Phillipe Prugnaud, CEO of Mint Group in Paris, concurs, noting her appointment meets several goals starting with branching out of the French-run box. "Picking someone from outside of the fashion world proves how serious Chanel is about its diversity.Her lack of knowledge in fashion makes it clear she will not be evaluated in that field; the organization feels it has this covered," he opines, adding, "However it is a signal that Chanel being a global company is getting serious about its capacity to lớn maintain standards in diversity, parity at all levels of recruitment, management but also creative & communication." He feels Nair"s experience at Unilever in global sản phẩm management will contribute lớn a systematic approach to hàng hóa life and cycles along with innovative ways to lớn retail both globally & locally.
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Burke knows that today"s companies are more than just the sản phẩm they make. Nair"s background of 30-years at Unilever, culminating in the đứng top HR spot, garnered hera global reputation for progressive và human-centered leadership, delivering significant business impact. She is currently responsible for over 150,000 employees across more than 100 countries globally.
This speaks to diversity which is at the forefront of everyone"s company values," suggests Burke. "It"s not just about selling product. Kering has done a great job addressing this, which you see in the store"s personnel and environment, the quality of life, and sustainability practices. If Chanel wants lớn be more known for its core và human values, communicating that with a strong stance is important. Leena has an extensive background in HR, promoting bộ vi xử lý core values and positioning."
He feels her role signifies a bigger vision khổng lồ lead Chanel into a new era focusing on people, culture, và message. "It"s certainly about a good product, that is a given, but it"s also about bringing in a new customer and relating khổng lồ the next generation.
Prugnaud agrees. "I bet she has great views and plans on how lớn approach and seduce with the next generation of Chane customers from emerging và growing markets in Asia, Africa và South America.Choosing a woman CEO originating from one of the largest countries in the world is a really smart move." He maintains the move shows the company wants to be 100% inclusive và allow for talents from all over the world lớn be attracted and grow within the group while remaining true lớn its French roots. "She will open up the brand lớn the world so it can create & communicate in an authentic way khổng lồ its global customer base. And you can"t be credible unless you are authentic in your vi xử lý core organization," Prugnaud adds.
Having a non-French, non-white female leading the brand has earned the iconic French house a round of applause from other female executives in the industry. Kristin Savilla, CEO of JOOR, an online wholesale selling và buying platform, welcomed the news. "It"swonderful lớn see that Chanel has appointed a female CEO as they embark on this next chapter. Diversity of perspective is important in leading a successful global organization. Ms. Nair"s experience as an engineer và human resources leader will position her well khổng lồ lead và evolve this iconic brand."
Mindy Prugnaud, Partner at Mint Group, seconds the motion. "It"s great for a house like Chanel khổng lồ hire a woman who is all about diversity và inclusiveness.Chanel was founded by a pioneering woman và is now being led by such an accomplished & trailblazing woman."
The move also feels personal for Tina Bhojwani, AERA vegan shoe brand CEO and co-founder, formerly the President & CEO of Dolce & Gabbana. "It"srefreshing to see a major luxury brand hire a woman to run their business. Chanel resonates with so many women globally; hiring someone representing their consumer base makes sense," she says, noting it wasn"t the first Chanel female CEO hire. "I applaud the company for thinking outside the fashion industry box as it tends lớn be insular. Seeing an established brand thinking differentlyabout leadership is exciting. I hope this serves as an inspiration khổng lồ broaden the industry"s approach lớn female leadership và pedigree, ultimately bringing in a fresh way of thinking.With regards to diversity, I"m proud that the owners of Chanelchose a fellow Indianwoman to lớn lead."
Lastly, Burke wonders if the iconic brand will follow its competitors" footsteps by becoming more active, socially conscientious, & philanthropic. Chanel had established the Chanel Foundation in 2011 aimed at"improving the economic & social conditions of women and adolescent girls around the world," according to the company website. They also support the art và young designers through their Culture Fund and Next Prize, respectively but vị so quieter than some of their other marketing efforts.
"Million-dollar businesses have to lớn operate differently today. It"s far greaterthan just selling luxury products.Compared to their competitors, they don"t get into philanthropic efforts publicly or have sustainability conversations. Nair seems khổng lồ be well-versed in that."
Peter Arnold, Executive Director of the Fashion Scholarship Fund and former fashion CEO, hopes Nair’s new role will engender more participation in philanthropic programs that focus on equity. “Global brands, especially global luxury brands lượt thích Chanel, have a visibility và an attendant responsibility lớn change the complexion of our industry. Focusing on kiến thiết talent and making it more diverse and inclusive is a helpful step,” says Arnold adding, “But, the composition of board rooms và senior management is in need of change as well. Leena’s appointment is certainly an encouraging development.”
Chanel also points out that Nair is a "highly respected as a visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes." Leena is also a non-executive thành viên of British Telecom, a member of the Board of the Leverhulme Trust, và was a non-executive Director on the UK Government"s Business, Energy và Industrial Strategy department. Leena Nair will begin her new role at the end of January next year.