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The BoF Podcast | Leena Nair on Leading Chanel Into the Future

Chanel’s global CEO Leena Nair joined BoF founder and CEO Imran Amed at BoF VOICES 2023 to discuss the vision she’s crafting for the iconic French luxury brand.
The BoF Podcast | Leena Nair on Leading Chanel Into the Future
The BoF Podcast | Leena Nair on Leading Chanel Into the Future (Getty Images)
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Background:

At every juncture of her extraordinary professional journey, Leena Nair has authored a series of ‘firsts.’ Growing up in her home country of India, she was part of the first cohort of female students at her school, at Unilever she was the first woman to lead global human resources, responsible for 150,000 employees and in January 2022 she became Chanel’s first-ever global CEO of Indian-origin — making her the only woman of colour leading a major global luxury brand.

Nair is leaning on the lessons from her people-centric career to lead Chanel into the future as the post-pandemic luxury boom comes to an end. “I really believe if you look after people, their growth and development, their dreams and aspirations, they will look after the business. They will help you with ideas and really care about the institution they’re a part of,” says Nair.

Nair sat down for her first public talk with BoF founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed at BoF VOICES 2023 to share her vision for Chanel, philosophies on leadership and advice for women who feel like outsiders.

Key Insights:

  • Growing up in her home country of India, Nair frequently battled gendered stereotypes. “After a point I had to stop listening. … Gender roles were so strong. … One of the most [common] comments I would get is, ‘You’re so talented. You should have been a boy,’” she recalls.
  • Acknowledging that she is a fashion-industry outsider, Nair is conscious of fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment. “Lift as you climb. … I feel the responsibility of making it easier for those who come after me,” she explains.
  • Nair intentionally welcomes insights from diverse perspectives. “I really feel the days of the superhero leader with all the answers is way behind us. … How can one individual have the answers?” she asks. “Collective problem solving, collective creation, collective ideation … is really important to me.”
  • Sharing her vision for Chanel, Nair outlined her three pillars for the brand’s future. “One is to have a positive impact in the world. … The second is, in the world of AI, to be relentless in protecting human creation, human creators, human relationships. And third, to always be part of what’s next, to shape what’s coming.”
  • Nair’s advice to young women finding their voice in whichever industry they are drawn to is straightforward: “Be unafraid to try and express your ambition and what you want to do. … Be intentional to say I want this, because if you can’t express ambition in those words to yourself, to your CEO, to your mentor, to someone who supports you, how can it ever be translated into reality?”

Additional Resources:

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