No background in the fashion industry, no CEO experience, Indian descent, female. These are the factors that drew public attention when Lina Nair (54) was selected as the CEO of Chanel, a global brand, in January of last year. As the first woman of color to lead Chanel, she posted sales of $17 billion (approximately 22.5 trillion won) in the ready-to-wear, bags, cosmetics, perfume, and jewelry sectors last year. On the 27th (local time), the Wall Street Journal ( WSJ ) evaluated that “Chanel’s (recruitment) gamble worked.”
Early last year, when Nair joined Chanel, the brand was in crisis in many ways. In 2019, designer Karl Lagerfeld, who was known as Chanel’s icon for over 30 years, passed away, and the world went into shutdown (closure) due to the new coronavirus infection (Corona 19). Kering (parent company such as Gucci and Bottega Veneta) and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (parent company such as Louis Vuitton and Celine), which are rival luxury goods groups, were also aggressively pursuing acquisition and marketing strategies to achieve sales.Nair’s only career was at Unilever, famous for soap Dove and ice cream Ben & Jerry’s . His highest-ranking position was human resources officer ( CHRO ), and he had never overseen the entire management of the company. WSJ said, “Unilever먹튀검증, headquartered in the UK, operates more than 300 factories across 69 countries, and it is far from Chanel’s Paris atelier, where seamstresses work more than 200 hours to create a single dress.” It was Alain Wertheimer (75), co-owner and chairman of Chanel, who believed in Nair and selected him despite opposition from those around him. He is the grandson of Pierre Wertheimer, who was a partner of Gabrielle Chanel. Nigel Higgins, chairman of Barclays Bank of England and Nair’s mentor, said: “When he got the offer, he thought very carefully about whether he could do the job himself.” According to the WSJ , Nair has received support from around 7,000 e-mails and letters from women around the world.
During his first year at the company, Nair studied and visited over 100 Chanel stores, ateliers, and branch offices around the world. He received advice from senior designer Virginie Viard (51), who is known as Lagerfeld’s right-hand man, and he also studied French. According to WSJ , he organized a 17-member leadership committee to meet with executives from Disney, Microsoft, and Google to inspire a new management spirit.
In particular, he declared that he would introduce technological innovation and ESG (environmental protection, social contribution, ethics) management system. It aims to operate exclusively on renewable energy by 2025 and reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. “By this time, about a third of luxury consumers will be Gen Z or Alpha,” Nair predicted. “Their consumption will be driven by corporate social responsibility.”
Growing up in Kolhapur, a small town in southwestern India, Nair studied electronics and communications engineering at Walchand University. He recalled, “I grew up hearing a lot of comments about not being a woman early in his life.” He joined Unilever as a summer intern and was officially hired in 1992. Shortly thereafter, he volunteered as a night supervisor at a plant in India. He reasoned that living in a town without roads or electricity would help him better understand what consumers need.
Every time he moved to his new place of work, he carried out the ‘Lina’s Toilet’ project, which was to set up a separate female toilet. He told the WSJ , “I’ve always been the first in everything I’ve done, but I’ll help those who come after me so I don’t end up being the last.”