Everything We Know About Chanel’s New Global CEO: Leena Nair

Everything We Know About Chanel’s New Global CEO: Leena Nair


Chanel makes news with a rather unconventional move—placing at the helm a fashion outsider as their new CEO: Leena Nair.

Related: Coco Chanel: A Look To Last A Hundred Years

A bold move by French fashion maison Chanel ensued breaking headlines last December 14. The luxury brand released a brief statement regarding the recent movements in the house’s management. The most significant being the appointment of a new CEO, Leena Nair. In light of this, French billionaire Alain Wertheimer, who is the fashion label’s co-owner and previous Chief Executive Officer, will take on the role of Global Executive Chairman

This statement comes as big news as Nair comes from an entirely different industry—consumer goods. The 52 year old British Indian is being uprooted from her 30-year long career at Unilever—where she was the acting Chief Human Resources Officer and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE). However far her previous designation is to her upcoming appointment, Chanel’s move is in hopes of bringing an outsider’s perspective to the fashion industry. 

More About Chanel’s New CEO, Leena Nair

Albeit relatively new to the high fashion landscape, Nair has already made significant strides and has placed several remarkable achievements under her belt. One of which is being included in the exclusive list of Most Powerful Women of 2021 by Fortune India. One of the reasons for this honor is because her recent work in Unilever realized a 19% increase in employee well-being scores. This is a rewarding feat considering the continuous shifts that have taken place due to the pandemic. 

Nair, like Chanel, also started from humble beginnings. Before reaching the zenith of her career in the former Anglo-Dutch conglomerate, she started at the bottom of the corporate ladder as a management trainee in 1992. Even then though, she was already making history as one of the first women managers to be on the factory floor. Her colorful career’s achievements do not stop there. Her most recent capacity as the Chief Human Resources Officer is also part of her arsenal of “firsts” in the corporate world. Nair’s LinkedIn bio-data reads, “The first female, first Asian, youngest ever CHRO of Unilever”. 

Chanel’s new CEO’s career so far speaks volumes about her advocacy for women empowerment. Not only has she placed herself as an epitome of the advocacy, but she has also elevated other women in the corporate set-up. She spearheaded internal efforts and campaigns that focused on achieving gender parity across the 160,000 employees within Unilever. Nair has also received merit for leading the conglomerate’s HR intervention, “Career by Choice”. It is a program which gives opportunities to women who have fallen off the career ladder to rejoin the workforce. 

Leena has been a pioneer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more so than in her role as CHRO, where she has been a driving force on our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, on the transformation of our leadership development, and on our preparedness for the future of work. She has played a critical role in building our purpose-led, future-fit organisation, which is now the employer of choice in over 50 countries globally,” Alan Jope, Unilever CEO said in a statement.

Despite her heavy-weight accomplishments, Nair seems to remain humble and empathetic to her core. One of her recent and touching pieces was published in Fortune magazine, where she eloquently wrote about the need for leaders to be vulnerable with their employees during these uncertain times. In the article, the previous CHRO delves deep into her own struggles, such as her mother succumbing to COVID-19 after a 13-day battle, and shared what it meant to be live and share grief.

A gold medalist from Xavier School of Management (XLRI), Leena Nair’s arsenal of achievements and passionate people-centric approach prove that she is of high caliber and is fit to take the helm as Chanel’s new Global Chief Executive Officer.

Nair took to social media to post about her new function and gratefulness for Unilever for being her home for the past 30 years.

She is slated to commence her new position at Chanel come January 2022. 

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