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Iconic fashion house Chanel chooses India-born Leena Nair to lead as CEO

Chanel CEO
Chanel CEO
  • Nair is the first Indian to be the global CEO of Chanel.

  • She was formerly the global executive for Unilever and worked there for over 30 years.

  • Experts think Nair’s appointment as CEO signals the brand’s evolution towards more diverse hires.

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Former longtime executive at Unilever Leena Nair, 52, announced her appointment as Global CEO of Chanel on Tuesday.

She took to Twitter on Dec. 14 to say she is “humbled” and “honoured” to be leading the “iconic and admired” fashion house, succeeding Alain Wertheimer, a grandson of Chanel co-founder Pierre Wertheimer.

“I am so inspired by what @CHANEL stands for,” she wrote. “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.”

Fashion industry outsider Nair also wrote that she is grateful for her 30-year career at home goods conglomerate Unilever, adding that she will continue to be a proud advocate of the company and “its ambition to make sustainable living commonplace.”

Born in India, Nair was Unilever’s first woman, first Asian and youngest chief human resources officer, according to the company. She was hired by the company in India in 1992 as factory personnel manager of Unilever’s Lipton (India) Ltd brand and worked her way up to an executive position.

Experts think Nair’s hiring indicates Chanel is looking to accommodate “changing consumer awareness of the industry’s environmental impact and the importance of diverse hires,” according to the Associated Press. Imran Amed, founder and CEO of news website the Business of Fashion, told AP that Nair was focused on the environment and diversity while working at Unilever.

“I think that that signals a really important challenge for Chanel as it seeks to modernize its corporate culture,” Amed said.

Luxury Connect CEO and founder Ahbay Gupta told the AP: “This is the first time an Indian is heading a global luxury brand, that too an Indian woman, and it’s the first time a fashion industry outsider has been picked.”

AP reported that Nair’s move to Chanel also signals the increasing stature of Indian women in international executive positions, saying she has opened the door for others seeking positions in luxury brands.

Featured Image via Unilever

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