Leena Nair, the new boss of Chanel

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Since January, Chanel has a new general manager. Her name is Leena Nair. This Briton of Indian origin lives in London, where the group’s head office is located. It is also from there that she will manage the famous fashion house.

Leena Nair is a woman with an atypical background. Black hair, piercing gaze, movie star smile… Leena Nair does not come from the seraglio. His appointment as head of the luxury group was a surprise. Leena Nair arrives at Chanel after thirty years at Unilever, the retail giant, which she made a 100% equal company in terms of gender equality at management level, the sector she led.

“Kolaphur is in my heart”

This charismatic woman started at the bottom. Leena Nair was born 53 years ago in Kolaphur, western India, where she attended secondary school. These years of learning, she remembers on the occasion of a meeting with the students of her former school: ” Kolaphur is in my heart forever. I love its cuisine, I love everything this city represents. I couldn’t refuse your invitation because I know you are the future of Kolaphur. You are called to make a difference. And not only for your city, but for the whole world. »

“You can achieve anything you want in your life”

Dreaming big, especially when you’re born a girl, is her motto. With an engineering degree in her pocket, Leena immediately realizes that she had made a mistake in her choice of studies and joined a management school; she ends up valedictorian. She has just found her calling: supervising and organizing work within a company. In the early 1990s, Leena entered Unilever as a simple trainee and rose through the ranks to become twenty years later the first woman, the first Indian and the youngest HRD in the history of the group. His source of inspiration? His father : “He always supported me. I remember when I was little, people came to our house and said to my father in a tone of reproach: You don’t have a son? You only have two daughters! It hurt me, because I thought I was good, but not good enough. But my father encouraged me: you can achieve anything you want in life. »

Personality outside the seraglio

This isn’t the first time a woman has run Chanel. Until 2016 it was an American, Maureen Chiquet, who was in charge and who was replaced by Alain Wertheimer, then president of the group. The novelty this time is that the group has gone for a rather unusual profile, believes Silvano Mendes, fashion specialist at the Brazilian Service of RFI and teacher at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University: ” It’s a sign of openness because we imagine that it will bring in its suitcases certain practices from mass distribution. It’s not something new in the world of luxury, but it’s quite different, unexpected at Chanel, whose management is known to be very concentrated, led either by people close to the Wertheimer family, owners of the brand , or by personalities from the fashion and luxury sectors. »

The lack of transparency of major luxury brands

The fashion world regularly comes under fire for its opacity and practices. In 2017, the British brand Burberry destroyed clothing and cosmetics worth more than 30 million euros in the name of brand protection. The little embroiderers of Mumbai had to fight hard to improve their working conditions and salaries. There are still few fashion designers who work directly with these embroiderers.

This taste for secrecy, Chanel cultivates it. Like other major fashion brands, the group has often lacked transparency when it comes to its supply chains or its financial results: Chanel is a brand that has a cult of secrecy. It has only recently begun to communicate publicly about its results, its benefits. But at the same time, she is very popular. It is perhaps one of the names that most embody France, along with Dior and Hermès. It is a brand that is always in search of novelty. »

The social rights of workers

Leena Nair’s watchwords are social inclusion, transparency and sustainability. Words that resonate in the ears of consumers who are increasingly sensitive to the social rights of workers. Instilling these values ​​into the legendary brand that is Chanel will be one of the most important missions of the new director of the house.


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