Chanel Appoints Indian-born Leena Nair As New Global CEO

The French luxury brand is breaking boundaries and advocating for diversity within the industry.


The notable fashion house Chanel has chosen Indian-born and fashion outsider Leena Nair, longtime executive at Unilever, to be its new global CEO. This decision is being praised for being a landmark for diversity and inclusion within the luxury fashion industry. 

Nair served as the global head of human resources at Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company based in London. Nair was Unilever’s first Asian, first female, and youngest ever chief HR officer and led the company’s Diversity and Inclusion agenda as well as advocating for sustainable practices and attitudes. After 30 years with Unilever, Nair is ready to begin a new journey at Chanel, where she will be succeeding Alain Wertheimer, the grandson of Chanel’s co-founder Pierre Wertheimer.

Nair tweeted that she is “humbled and honored to be appointed the Global Chief Executive Officer of @CHANEL, an iconic and admired company.” 

Imran Amed, founder and CEO of the Business of Fashion, said Nair’s appointment is “a welcome change from the kind of formulaic model of the executives that tend to run major luxury brands.” Luxury fashion companies that consider employing people from consumer goods companies for senior level jobs typically pull people from marketing departments. Chanel’s decision to appoint Nair, who comes from a strong background in HR, emphasizes the proactive change the company is making to diversify their workforce and ideologies. 

Nair’s success is being applauded back home as a sign of inspiration for Indian business leaders as well a huge milestone for brown women at the head of luxury brands. Abhay Gupta, CEO and founder of Luxury Connect, said, “It’s very encouraging and motivating, especially since we haven’t seen this before. Coming from a non-luxury background, I expect she’ll bring fresh perspective – it’s a sign that things are changing.” 


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