Violet Summer Zine Issue 3 - Page 24

The former CEO of Chanel, Maureen Chiquet, is creative, playful and witty and she also doesn’t give out advice so don’t ask. But she will sell you on her new book “Be- yond the Label” which is about her time and journey leading up to the greatest role in any fashionista’s dream: being the boss of Chanel. On a raining Tuesday night, IVY, The Social University, hosted a very French cafe chat with the dewy-skinned American turned Parisian on how to lead a luxury brand to be worth $6.2 billion. “I sat at the head of the table with ten other men who were primarily all French” the former CEO bragged. Beyond the Label is essentially about stories and fluffy ideas about Ms. Chi- quet’s time getting to know the French culture while working in marketing and then getting recruited as a headhunter to work at Chanel. From the book, you’ll get the inti- mate details of her twenty-something ordeals, like her experience witnessing her room- mate soak in a bathtub, while having a conversation with a male friend and smoking cigarettes. This seemingly glamorous vision left a lasting impression on Ms. Chiquet, who thought it was so French. When I asked her about why she even decided to include this in her book at the IVY Happy Hour Hour, she responded, “that was when I real- ized stuff about my sexuality and being comfortable with my body.” What struck me about this woman was her ability to be funny and vulnerable in a way that I had never seen businesswomen who are often serious. I was baffled when Ms. Chiquet confessed that she had to use her “feminine leadership qualities” to succeed in her role as CEO. “I cried many times in the conference room,” she told the audience with a confident smile. “I didn’t go in thinking I was going to command control of the groups, set strat- egy... Because that wasn’t going to fly in a room full of seasoned corporate men. You think you would go in with this “I am a vision,” type of mindset. But I had to use my feminine leadership qualities.” I had to be vulnerable… These are the things that helped me establish my credibility.”As of 2017, there are 32 female CEOS at Fortune 500 com- panies and apparently ( according to Fortune.com) this is the highest number of estro- gen in the boardroom in a 63- year history. I bet very few of these women would admit to crying in meetings to get what they want. So to be honest Ms. Chiquet’s confession stuck with me after the chat. I went home and googled “the life of Gabrielle Chanel” to figure out what made this white girl from Missouri so appealing to big businessmen and if Gabrielle Chanel would agree with feminine leadership qualities. I came across a video directed by Karl Lagerfeld depicting Coco in her early days when she first opened her store in Paris with the help of male admirers. It was funny to watch a black and white video of a frazzled Chanel who was just in it to sell hats and make clothing. I bet she cried many times when she felt overwhelmed. I bet she pouted in her best red lipstick to get the financial backing from these male admirers. But in 2017, there is no amount of pouting or crying that I can do to get what I want. Being pretty doesn’t lead to much - not even a modeling contract. Perhaps, crying for some women yields more benefits. And maybe crying is a republican, aristocratic personality trait? Because Democrats surely can’t afford to cry in this culture. I cried when I was trying to plea for a job I thought I wanted, but the decision was already made. No amount of femi- nine leadership characteristics wasn’t going to get me magically paid in full. 24