It’s the stuff that legends are made of: A young Chabi Nouri joins Richemont in 1998 and, two decades later, rises up the ranks of the corporate ladder, becoming not only Piaget’s first female CEO, but also Richemont’s first.
It’s an important milestone not only for the legendary group — marking a historic moment in the luxury world — but for all women and all potential female CEOs. Nouri represents the spirit of this modern age: That a woman can do it all, and in heels too.
Here, our Founding Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Haleh Nia, chats with the formidable Nouri in Dubai.
As the first female CEO at Piaget, why do you think there has been such vast underrepresentation of women in the corporate world?
First, I have to say: I agree with you that women have been underrepresented in the corporate world, and I don’t think it’s specific to the realms of luxury and watches. Overall, the most important thing is to look forward. I think things have changed very dramatically in the last few years, especially here in the region. We’ve finally made the change, and I think women supporting each other much more helps to drive the better representation of women. We need to continue doing it – supporting each other.
Do you think there is something that a woman can bring to Piaget that men cannot?
I wouldn’t say so, but yes, being a woman helps me to completely embody the watch side in a different way than a man. But I think we all have advantages. Now, in the era where the brand wants to develop itself into strength, it helps to be a woman.
As someone who is part Iranian, what are you bringing to a Swiss heritage brand?
I consider myself a woman of the world because I’ve had a chance to be Swiss, Italian, and Iranian. I’ve been raised with a very open mind. In a way, this is what has enriched me most in my entire life: a lot of curiosity and being open to different cultures. So I think it’s very interesting to be open-minded and curious, to try and understand where others are coming from and the history of other cultures. Of course, I’m also very proud to represent Switzerland, Italy, and Iran.
Can you tell us more about your new ‘Sunny Side of Life’ disposition [the new company motto] and the Middle Eastern consumer?
The Middle East has been a very important strategy and focus for us in the last few years, but it really comes down to the fact that Piaget was one of the first international jewelers to come to the region 60 years ago – in fact, Mr. Piaget came himself. The family has always taken an interest in discovery and being open to the world, and there is this emotional link between Piaget and the region. That’s why I thought we should continue to have an even stronger presence in the Middle East.
Piaget was one of the first international jewelers to come to the region 60 years ago – in fact, Mr. Piaget came himself.
The other point is that I’ve always felt Middle Eastern men and women are early adopters, very quick in understanding what the alternative is. And this is key. ‘Sunny Side of Life’ really comes down to what Piaget is about. It’s a very unconventional brand. When you look at its history, you’ll find that every decade entailed some very interesting decisions in times when nobody would have made those decisions. And the spirit behind all of that is that we look positively at the world, which has made these decisions possible. If you want to be conservative, you’ll never do those things.
You clearly have an affinity for the brand – you’ve embodied it perfectly.
It’s been a very natural fit for me. People who work with Piaget embody this brand and understand its smaller elements, and those are the elements that make the brand so iconic. And we went back to what the driving force behind Piaget was: always coming back to creation, like making the thinnest watches or using hard stones. We were the first ones to use hard stones back in 1963, for example.
All these aspects came from somewhere. And it’s interesting because the family has never really moved from the mountains in Switzerland. They draw their inspiration from nature. I mean, positivity and believing that the future is bright is always there – and that’s how we came up with ‘Sunny Side of Life’, taking into account all the key values at Piaget. It’s a very playful brand, it’s very colorful. It’s something that doesn’t take itself too seriously and brings a lot of joy to our lives.
As a young CEO, how are you planning on bringing Piaget into the 21st century digitally?
Piaget has had an e-commerce presence for seven years already. And I think that today, what we see is not going to be the digital world only or retail stores only – it’s going be everything at the same time. It’s along the lines of what we all do; we go online, have a browse, maybe go into a shop, and then go back online. And all of that should work together. For me, the next year would be finding the right balance between all of that.
So you’re talking more along the lines of experiential activations?
Yes, this is something we try to have, as we ourselves are interested in it. We all live in this world and have experiences, so we have to continue with this.
Millennials are a very interesting topic. They have such a different way of looking at the world.
We can’t talk about the 21st century without talking about millennials. What are your plans for this generation?
In reality, millennials can afford as much as others. Today is more about what interests them rather than making something accessible. When we launched the ‘Possession’ watch collection, there were different price points on that and we didn’t think it would be for millennials – we thought it will be for our loyal clients. It wasn’t so defined.
We’re trying to get to millennials by reading a lot about them. We have them in our shops every day, and we try to understand what they do and don’t like, so we learn from them on a daily basis. It’s part of our strategy. Millennials are a very interesting topic. They have such a different way of looking at the world. We’ve always had to target a younger demographic, but I think the one unifying thread now is that they consume content very differently and their spending powers are very different.