Chabi Nouri: the new CEO of Piaget talks innovation and the evolving luxury consumer

Lara Mansour   |   03 - 04 - 2017

Chabi Nouri joined the Piaget team in September 2014 as Director of Marketing, Communications and Heritage, and now at the start of April, she has taken on the new role of global CEO for the jewellery and watches brand.

Having spent a significant part of her career in the Richemont family at Cartier, Chabi adds a unique perspective to the Piaget brand, with a focus on deploying communications strategies around the Maison’s jewellery expertise and the 140-year heritage that defines Piaget.

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Part Iranian, part Swiss, Chabi completed her Masters in Economics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, before joining Cartier in 1998 where she rose up the ranks, becoming completely immersed in the world of jewellery from 2004 to 2008, as International Jewellery Group Manager. Then, taking a hiatus from the world of jewellery and watchmaking, she acquired all the business acumen of working for a major international FMCG as Global Head of Brand for Vogue Cigarettes at BAT in London, before returning to the Richemont Group, with an in-depth knowledge of constantly evolving consumer tastes.

Here the recently appointed CEO, with an extensive knowledge of the luxury goods category, shares with us how being on the pulse is key to developing strategies that engage new-generation customers.

You’ve just been appointed as CEO of Piaget; how do you view these new responsibilities?

First of all, it’s very exciting and an amazing new experience for me. On the same note, I’ve been in the company for two years now, working on different aspects of our brand so it’s not a complete change for me. It’s a company and a D.N.A and a set of values that I know, and of course I have a good team around me.

Did you find that your break from working in jewellery and watches between 2008 and 2014 has allowed you to come back better equipped for your position at Piaget?

Yes, it has. I think I’m a very curious person; that’s why I love to experience different positions with different missions. I started out with the Richemont Group and I have been able to touch on very different areas within my career. I’ve worked on product development with Cartier, I’ve worked on the merchandising and I’ve worked on retail. So, I had an amazing experience there and I learned very different aspects of the business. That’s where I also fine-tuned all my financial knowledge, the trade environment, marketing, and had the chance to manage nice teams. So absolutely this will benefit me for my current positon, but also the last few years within the company has helped me quite a lot to prepare for the role.

How do you keep the balance between creative innovation and the values of tradition?

Innovation is key; we must always challenge ourselves to innovate while remaining in the framework of the values of Piaget. With Piaget, there is a motto which is ‘always be better than necessary,’ so the values of the family have always been to do something that has never been done before. We try to be pioneers in every aspect of what we create, and innovation is built into our brand values; we don’t see innovation as something that is opposite to tradition. For us, it is about referencing our tradition to be able to innovate even more. If we think about our watches for example, we have a record of innovation with new movement and thinner models while always putting design at the forefront. So, for Piaget it’s always about the innovation, design, elegance and creativity that goes into our pieces.

What’s key to keeping the brand at the forefront of the modern customer’s mind?

First of all, the product needs be desired, and so I think the creativity and beauty of the designs is one way of being kept in mind. But also, of course, there are ways to communicate with our clients and with the friends of the brand; this is a way to stay ahead and to stay at the forefront of people’s minds. Today, we have so many different mediums through which to communicate. We have social media, e-commerce and we have our boutiques, so everything works well together as a real 360 experience, and we have the opportunity to communicate even better with our clients.

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How do you feel the historic market of watch making has changed with the introduction of social media?

It’s very exciting; it allows the rich heritage of the Maison of Piaget to really express itself through different mediums and to explain the artistic story. It’s a very key part of our communication strategy be able to work with social media and it’s good that our clients can communicate with each other too. It has definitely enriched our strategy and the way we talk to our audience.

So, do you plan to embrace social media more in the future?

Absolutely, it’s very key to us. We started a long time ago and were quite early in adopting social media into our plans. We will continue to emphasise social media and the entire digital world, including e-commerce which began back in 2012 in the USA. We feel it is a key part of the decision-making process of the clients. They decide if they want to purchase or experience a brand online or in the store and I don’t think the two compete with one another.  For me, online is a retail environment and it’s also a source of information to better understand our products and our story. I think it is now part of the whole experience. It is not one or the other, they can complement each other and exist together. Today, it is almost mandatory; it is part of the way we inform ourselves and buy products.

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Do you plan for the introduction of more ambassadors of the brand in line with this strategy?

Today, we already have two well-known, very talented and very prestigious brand ambassadors in Jessica Chastain and Ryan Reynolds. And then we have other faces too who are authentic fans of the brand across the world and across the different regions. We are very happy with the Piaget society we have today.

Feminism and the empowerment of women is at the forefront of society’s mind at the moment; what has been your experience as a successful woman in your industry?

First of all, I would say that I don’t think that luxury is very dominated by men. I have worked with a lot of different, talented women in this industry. I personally never felt any difference being a woman in this environment. I think on the leadership side of things; the profile of the individual makes a difference but not being a specific gender. I have always had the chance to evolve in an environment and an organisation that has really been advanced in its diversity, so I have been lucky to not really have felt any kind of difference.

How important is it to have the face of Piaget as an empowered woman?

It’s probably very close to the values of the brand in the sense that our clients are very charismatic and have their own personalities, and basically that represents the empowered woman. At the same time, I think empowerment isn’t really the sole criteria to define someone so it’s not necessarily about making the statement of empowerment alone. Jessica Chastain, an ambassador of the brand, really represents our values. She has a very positive energy and is radiant; she’s very much aligned with the Piaget brand. There is always a positive outlook that has driven the Maison from the beginning; it’s true that Piaget represents the sunny side of life, and that’s how we like to express ourselves.

What is your global vision and strategy for Piaget?

I think it is to have even more people knowing about Piaget. Knowing the rich heritage of course, but also the new creations; understanding its innovations and the amazing fusion between elegance and extravagance. It is my priority for people to feel the sunny side of life with Piaget; to ensure that this message is more well-known and experienced by our clients.

What challenges do you think you will face along the way?

The environment is very active and dynamic so there is a lot happening in our field. Therefore, the challenge is to find a way to elevate ourselves above the rest and above all of the activity, as everything moves so fast. Competition is fantastic as it pushes us even more and we must strive to be even better to create more and innovate more.

Is it a challenge changing the visual identity of such an iconic brand?

I wouldn’t say that it changes but more that the visual identity evolves. As long as we remain close to the values and the driving force of the brand and the Maison’s D.N.A, it is not a challenge. In fact, it’s a great evolution.

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What’s not yet been achieved with the brand that you still aim to accomplish?

I think that when you know Piaget, you cannot help but love and desire the brand. So, our aim is to have more people understanding the brand and really raise awareness. It is such an amazing brand with a unique creativity so this is something I would love to accelerate.

What do you see as a standout piece that would be most popular to the customer?

I would say the new open bangle bracelets are standout pieces that will prove to be very popular. The pieces from the Possessions collection that we launched three years ago are a 25 year icon of the company, and now we are launching them in colour. We are launching the newer cuffs and the pendant with natural coloured stones. They are great for layering, so the fact you can stack them and mix and match becomes something that’s almost addictive; to collect them and keep them and love them. And I think in the region also, we love colour so it suits that passion perfectly.

Do you have any personal favourites from the collection?

Yes, absolutely! I have a favourite watch which is the Traditional watch. I absolutely love it because it embodies all that Piaget is about. There is the gold cuff and clip that is hand-engraved by our artisans line by line using small tools. Piaget is very well known for gold bracelets and for crafting and sculpting gold so this represents that very well. Also, it is a signature of Piaget to have hard stones so this is emphasised on our jewellery but we also have it on the watch setting too. That’s why this watch represents the brand for me; I love it because it has been made for almost 60 years and you cannot see the difference between what was created 60 years ago and this today.

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We would love to learn more about you.  Can you tell us what lessons you’ve learned and live by to remain empowered in this work environment?

I’ve always stayed very true to myself, to my own values and to my ethics. I’ve always tried to really stick to that. I believe in my teams and in myself and try to keep that confidence and have a very positive outlook of the future. I really believe in what I’m doing; I have a goal and just go for it.

How do you balance competitive work environment with your personal life?

I think it’s a matter of organisation. Everybody has a different view on what is for them and the things they want to prioritise. For me, I have found my balance between my family, my work, the professional experience and social life. Everything goes well together, and it’s a matter of organisation above all else.

Can you tell us about your own personal style?

I’m very feminine and I love wearing very high heels; that’s probably one of my signature elements to any outfit. I can do that more often as I’m not very tall! Also, I like to have a little bit of something audacious in my style.

Do you have any tips and advice you can share for women in business to make it to the top?

You need to believe in yourself. That is probably the key and most important thing; we need to believe in ourselves.

By Natalie Hanson