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Halfway through the law school entrance exam, which Chiquet took because she didn't know what to do with her life, she decided to turn in the test after realizing that she belonged in Paris, not in court.
Chiquet, 43, is now president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc., and in January will become global chief executive officer of Chanel.
She did not join Chanel from a luxury goods background. Chiquet was a 15-year veteran of Gap Inc., having served as president of Banana Republic, and before that, executive vice president, merchandising, planning and production of Old Navy, where she was instrumental in building the brand into a $5.5 billion force. She began her career as brand manager of L'Oréal Paris.
Chiquet brings an international perspective to her new role, as well as a fascination with French culture. She moved to Paris after joining Chanel in May 2003 and spent a year working with senior management to understand the brand and strengthen international communications, operations and strategic planning. In October 2004, she relocated to New York as president and chief operating officer, directing all U.S. operations for beauty and fragrance, fashion, watches and fine jewelry. Her new mandate as global ceo will be to guide Chanel — whose estimated volume is $3.3 billion — well into the 21st century.
Chiquet sat down with Ed Nardoza, editor in chief of WWD, to talk about her new post at Chanel, and how her experience at Gap Inc. and L'Oréal prepared her for it.
WWD: You'll be running a French company based in New York, so you'll be on the road a lot. How do you manage professional and personal life when you're on the road so constantly?
Maureen Chiquet: It's a challenge, but I am really lucky. I have two people in my life who are my, I think, saviors in this respect: My husband, who is incredibly great with the kids, is able to work from home and do what he does and help support me at home, and my assistant, Kim Gold, who is incredible, keeps me organized and on track. But also I'm lucky because my family is multicultural. Antoine, my husband, is French, the kids are half-French, so when they have school vacations we can travel to France and they can come with us to different places around the world.