There are so few women among Richemont‘s top executives that when Chabi Nouri was recently made global CEO of Piaget, some journalists called her the first woman to crack the glass ceiling at the Swiss luxury conglomerate.
In an email interview, Nouri took pains to point out that while she has made inroads into an industry still dominated by men, she is not Richemont’s first female CEO. That honour goes to Marianne Romestain, who in 2014 became – and remains – the CEO of French luxury leather goods house, Lancel, another brand in the conglomerate’s stable.
But the Swiss-born Nouri, who in April replaced Philippe Leopold-Metzger, a 36-year Richemont veteran, is the first female CEO in Piaget. She’s also the first woman to be in Richemont’s upper ranks running its watch and jewellery business.
Her promotion from top marketing to chief executive at Piaget came soon after Richemont chairman Johann Rupert, in a much- publicised meeting with investors last November, signalled that the group needed greater gender diversity. But Nouri plays down the gender issue and says that during her years at Cartier, also a Richemont brand, “being a woman was never a disadvantage”.
She joined the jewellery-watch house in 1998 right out of university, armed with a Masters in Economics. She spent 10 years at Cartier, including eight at its headquarters as group manager for jewellery, global retail manager and merchandising manager. Then she took on the role of global head of brand for Vogue cigarettes at British American Tobacco.Six years later, she joined Piaget, initially as global brand equity, marketing jewellery and communication director, before being appointed international managing director sales & marketing.
Under her predecessor, the brand had focused on being taken seriously as a watchmaker at the expense of its jewellery line. Nouri’s mandate as CEO is to correct the imbalance and boost Piaget’s presence in the relatively buoyant jewellery market at a time when the Swiss watch industry is only starting to recover from two years of declining sales.
She appears to be the natural candidate for the job. Until recently, her stints in Richemont were mostly in the jewellery business. In announcing Nouri’s latest role, Piaget says she’s already made “a strong impact, particularly in redeveloping successfully our jewellery business and repositioning the brand”.
Indicating she will speed up the development of jewellery in Piaget, Nouri adds: “The female market is very important to us and we focus a lot on it already. Our feminine DNA is more and more displayed in our collections and we will continue to focus on women.”
Historically, Piaget has been about finding new ways to wear jewellery, like with its sautoir timepieces, cuff watches and bracelets. “We’ve brought these back,” Nouri says. “Recently we’ve also introduced the ear cuffs. This is the pioneering side of Piaget, its more audacious side.”
Her priority is to build on Piaget’s iconic collection in jewellery and timepieces, “to develop exceptional pieces through high jewellery collection with incredible stones and the Metiers d’Art collections”.
But Nouri says the men will not be neglected. “I have indeed been linked with women’s creations in jewellery and other categories but I have also worked on men’s accessories and watches, which are a core segment of Piaget.” Her jobs in Piaget in the last two years covered both jewellery and watches.
In any case, she says, she’s not going to approach jewellery as jewellery and watches as watches. “It’s always a fusion between the two worlds, which is very unique to Piaget. And this is really what my team and I want to focus on, and to bring this back again to the surface.”
Adapted from The Business Times.