Chanel Appoints Unilever Executive to Senior Position; Trend and new direction of industry ratings


In an unexpected announcement on Tuesday, Chanel

announced new leadership by calling on Unilever

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 head of the company, appointed by the board of directors of Chanel Limited (UK), will further ensure long-term success as a private company, believing in the freedom of creation, cultivating human potential and acting to make an impact in the world, ”Chanel said in a press release Tuesday.

While Nair’s past may seem unusual, it is increasingly becoming the case with luxury fashion. Until recently, a more likely candidate was often candidates from the fashion industry, mostly lifelong traders. According to Robert Burke of Robert Burke and Associates, a retail consulting firm in New York City, this is fast becoming the norm.

“Luxury brands have become such big companies in recent years that we have seen a change in the appointment of CEOs from outside the industry,” he notes, referring to Antonio Belloni. The Italian executive was one of the first to start the trend. He arrived at LVMH as Managing Director in 2001 after serving as President of Proctor and Gamble Europe. In 2017, Ralph Lauren chose Patrice Louvet, director of the P&G Beauty group, to become president and CEO of the classic American fashion brand. Even Pietro Beccari, CEO of Dior focused on fashion, who has worked at LVMH since 2006 when he joined Louis Vuitton as Executive Vice President Marketing and Communication, first worked at the General Management of Henkel in Germany, where he was Corporate Vice President for Hair Care. .

“What they’re looking for is intensive work experience,” Burke continues. “It’s a misnomer that people outside of the fashion world wouldn’t be able to understand. It isn’t, luxury is a commodity.”

Jean-Philippe Prugnaud, CEO of Mint Group in Paris, agrees, noting that his appointment meets several objectives starting with getting out of the French box. “Choosing someone outside of the fashion world shows how seriously Chanel takes her diversity. Her lack of fashion knowledge makes it clear that she will not be evaluated in this area.” However, this is a signal. that Chanel, being a global company, takes seriously its ability to maintain standards of diversity, parity across all levels of recruitment, management, but also creation and communication. ”He believes Nair’s experience at Unilever in global product management will contribute to a systematic approach to product life and cycles as well as innovative ways to retail both globally and locally.

Burke knows that today’s businesses are more than the product they make. Nair’s 30 years of experience at Unilever, culminating in # 1 HR, has earned him a worldwide reputation for progressive, people-centered leadership, delivering significant business impact. She is currently responsible for more than 150,000 employees in more than 100 countries around the world.

It is a testament to the diversity that is at the forefront of everyone’s company values, ”suggests Burke. “It’s not just about selling products. Kering has done a great job of addressing this issue, which you see in the store staff and environment, quality of life, and sustainability practices. If Chanel wants to be better known for her fundamental and human values, it is important to communicate this with a strong position. Leena has extensive HR experience, promoting core values ​​and positioning. “

He believes her role means a broader vision to lead Chanel into a new era focused on people, culture and message. “It’s definitely a good product, that’s a given, but it’s also about attracting a new customer and relating to the next generation.

Prugnaud agrees. “I bet she has some terrific views and plans on how to approach and engage the next generation of Chane customers in emerging and growing markets in Asia, Africa and South America. female CEO from one of the biggest countries in the world is a really smart move. ” He maintains that the movement shows the company wants to be 100% inclusive and allow talent from around the world to be attracted and grow within the group while remaining true to its French roots. “She will open up the brand to the world so that it can authentically create and communicate to its global clientele. And you can only be credible if you are authentic in your grassroots organization,” adds Prugnaud.

Having a non-French, non-white woman at the helm of the brand earned the iconic French house a round of applause from other female executives in the industry. Kristin Savilla, CEO of JOOR, an online wholesale and shopping platform, welcomed the news. “It’s wonderful to see that Chanel has appointed a female CEO as she embarks on this next chapter. Diversity of perspectives is important to leading a successful global organization. Ms. Nair’s experience as an engineer and HR manager will position her well to lead and grow this iconic brand. ”

Mindy Prugnaud, Partner at Mint Group, seconded the motion. “It’s great for a house like Chanel to hire a woman who values ​​diversity and inclusiveness. Chanel was founded by a trailblazer woman and is now run by such an accomplished and trailblazer woman.”

This decision is also personal for Tina Bhojwani, CEO and co-founder of the vegan footwear brand AERA, former president and CEO of Dolce and Gabbana. “It’s refreshing to see a big luxury brand hiring a woman to run their business. Chanel resonates with so many women around the world; hiring someone who represents their clientele makes sense,” she says, noting that this was not the first female CEO of Chanel to hire. “I applaud the company for thinking outside of the fashion industry because it tends to be islander. Seeing an established brand think differently about leadership is exciting. I hope this serves as an inspiration to broaden the industry’s approach to female leadership and pedigree, into a new way of thinking. When it comes to diversity, I am proud that the owners of Chanel have chosen a compatriot Indian to lead.

Finally, Burke questions whether the iconic brand will follow in the footsteps of its competitors by becoming more active, socially conscientious and philanthropic. Chanel created the Chanel Foundation in 2011 with the aim of “improving the economic and social conditions of women and adolescent girls around the world,” according to the company’s website. They also support art and young creators through their Culture Fund and their upcoming award, respectively, but do so more quietly than some of their other marketing efforts.

“Multi-million dollar companies have to operate differently today. It’s more than just selling luxury goods. Compared to their competitors, they do not publicly engage in philanthropic efforts or have discussions about sustainability. Nair seems to be familiar with that. “

Peter Arnold, executive director of the Fashion Scholarship Fund and former fashion CEO, hopes Nair’s new role will result in greater participation in equity-focused philanthropic programs. “Global brands, especially global luxury brands like Chanel, have visibility and a concomitant responsibility to change the complexion of our industry. Focusing on design talent and making it more diverse and inclusive is a useful step, ”says Arnold, adding,“ But the makeup of boardrooms and senior management also needs to change. Leena’s appointment is certainly an encouraging development.

Chanel also points out that Nair is a “well-respected visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, goal-oriented program is matched by a consistently strong track record of business results.” Leena is also a non-executive member of British Telecom, a member of the board of the Leverhulme Trust and a non-executive director of the UK government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department. Leena Nair will begin her new role at the end of January next year.


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