Cover Photo: Facebook/Leena Nair

Did you know that before she joined Chanel, Leena Nair worked at Unilever for 30 years?

This week, the fashion industry received major news when Chanel announced that Leena Nair will be taking over as global chief executive officer (CEO) of the French fashion house. 

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Leena is set to join Chanel in January 2022 and will replace Alain Wertheimer, who will be moving on to become the global chair of Chanel. Wertheimer owns Chanel with his brother, Gérard Wertheimer.

The news is certainly a surprise for many reasons. Firstly, the fashion house has not had a global CEO since Maureen Chiquet left in 2016. Secondly, Leena is an outsider to the fashion industry, having been the global head of human resources at Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever.

In its press announcement, Chanel said that Leena’s role “will further ensure long-term success as a private company”.

Leena then took to social media to express that she was “humbled and honoured” to be appointed chief executive of the “iconic and admired company”.

Of course, many will now be curious about Leena as well as her career thus far. Below, we list everything you need to know about her. 

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1. She was originally from India

Leena hails from Kolhapur in Maharashtra which is in India. 

She attended Holy Cross Convent High School in Kolhapur when she was a child and later moved on to study at The New College Kolhapur.

2. She has an MBA in Human Resources

In 1990, Leena attended the Xavier School of Management, which is a business school in Jamshedpur. She earned a Master of Business Administration in Human Resources and graduated with a gold medal in 1992. 

As a student, Leena was also part of the debate marketing association in her school.

3. She started her career as a trainee at Unilever

In 1992, Leena joined Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) as a management trainee. Her leadership skills and grit helped her to quickly move up the ranks and in 2013, she was named Unilever’s senior vice president of Human Resources.

She then took on the role of global head of diversity in the same year. In 2016, she moved to London and joined the Unilever Leadership Executive programme as a member. Later, she became the first female, first Asian and youngest ever Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever. This was a role she held for over five years.

4. She made great waves in Unilever

In her 30 years with the company, Unilever was named the number one Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Industry graduate employer of choice out of 54 countries.

She also worked extremely hard to ensure that Unilever was diverse and inclusive and that it was a human-centred workplace that focused on compassion. 

5. She has received many awards in her career

Over the years, Leena’s incredible leadership and people-centred approach to the workplace has earned her numerous awards.

Some of her most notable achievements include Role Model of Year at The Great British Businesswoman’s Awards 2021, appearing on Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women’s List and being recognised by Queen Elizabeth II as one of the most accomplished Indian business leaders in the United Kingdom.


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