Chanel Appoints Leena Nair Veteran Unilever

French fashion house Chanel on Tuesday appointed Leena Nair, a Unilever executive, as global CEO, hiring a consumer goods veteran to lead one of the world’s largest luxury goods groups.

Leena Nair‘s career at Unilever spanned 30 years, most recently as Director of Human Resources and a member of the company’s executive committee.

52-year-old Indian national Ms Nair is a rare outsider to run this tightly-controlled family-owned fashion house known for its tweed suits, quilted handbags and No.5 perfume.

She succeeds the American businesswoman Maureen Chiquet, from the fashion world, who was CEO of Chanel for nine years, until early 2016. She has not been replaced until now.

Chanel said in a statement that French billionaire Alain Wertheimer, 73, owner of Chanel with his brother Gerard Wertheimer, would step up to the role of global executive chairman of the group, which began with a hat boutique on rue Cambon in Paris.

Chanel was founded in 1910 by fashion legend GabrielleCocoChanel and has become the symbol of French chic.

The group said Nair, who supervised 150,000 people at Unilever, would join the group at the end of January and be based in London. He added that the new appointments would ensure his “long-term success as a private company”.

The hiring of Ms Nair, who rose through Unilever‘s ranks after starting as an intern at a factory, comes as the fashion industry is under pressure to take a more inclusive approach.

Under her leadership, Unilever has achieved gender parity at the global management level, according to a profile released last month by Harper’s Bazaar, which also underscored its commitment to paying living wage across the supply chain.

Ms Nair is a non-executive member of the board of British Telecom and previously served as the non-executive director of the UK government’s business, energy and industrial strategy department.

Chanel has fiercely defended its independence and only started reporting its financial results in 2018. She said in July that she expected a double-digit increase in sales this year from their 2019 level, ahead of the pandemic, by $ 12.3 billion.

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French fashion house Chanel on Tuesday appointed Leena Nair, a Unilever executive, as global CEO, hiring a consumer goods veteran to lead one of the world's largest luxury goods groups.

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