Beyond The Label: Maureen Chiquet
“I had my own version of Eat, Pray, Love,” says Maureen Chiquet, of the start of her journey following life as the Global CEO of Chanel. After “separating, emptiness and filling back up” in the Seychelles Islands, hiking and meditating in The Bhutan and ending in Italy, Chiquet returned to her home in Purchase, New York, to begin her reinvention.
And that’s where her memoir-style book, Beyond The Label, begins. Readers get invited immediately inside Chiquet’s closet where she does a metaphorical purge of her “uniform” she wore for 13 years, defined as her own interpretation of Chanel: a pair of jeans, anywhere from ripped to dark and a Chanel jacket with a tank top underneath. No Chanel was hurt in the process; it all went into storage in the basement!
With a wardrobe now containing a mix of high and low and favorites like Pucci, Yves Saint Laurent (which when Chiquet says it, rolls perfectly off her fluent French tongue), Céline and Rag & Bone jeans, Chiquet has done a reinvention that has laid the groundwork for her to become a global leader in literature and redefining roles for women.
“[The book] charts my rather unorthodox path from the time I was growing up in St. Louis, going to John Burroughs School, then eventually making my way as a literature major in college which you know is impossible to find a job when you do that. And figuring out that I really loved France and going to L’Oréal and back to the West Coast in the U.S. pretty much as a young merchandiser trainee at the Gap where I started in socks and belts,” Chiquet laughs. She adds, “I know that’s very glamorous and mostly cleaning out sample closets for the first year and then eventually moving up to the ranks of CEO of Chanel.”
Chiquet grew up in Creve Coeur, and says she always loved clothes, but only thought of fashion as a hobby. She loved shopping with her mother (who still lives in town) at Frontenac Plaza and says she kept her attuned to beauty also in nature and art. Chiquet cherished times at The Muny, Forest Park and seeing shows at The Fox.
“When I was a young mother, ‘good mothers’ meant that you had to stand on the sidelines of every soccer game and eat breakfast in the morning. You went to every single school event and then maybe you also worked and then you were exhausted. But early on in my life, at the time my husband and I decided that we would actually redefine that for ourselves and he ended up staying home so I could pursue my career, and it wasn’t easy because we got a lot of flack from family and friends about just the roles that they thought that we should be playing,” Chiquet says.
Chiquet recalls a time she cried on a plane on the way to Hong Kong, missing her children during one of many times she was traveling throughout her career. While at Chanel, she was in Paris every two weeks. But she confidently also shares that her children, now 24 and 21, got what they wanted and needed, attributing their own family plan and an emphasis on the highest education choices to their success and happiness.
For now, Chiquet is embarking on a book tour, doing speaking engagements and consulting. Now 54, she lives with her partner and three Siamese cats, and enjoys spending time with friends, going to the theater, hiking, meditating and doing yoga.
Chiquet says, “I love actually being home, I started traveling early in my career at the Gap in the 90s and I’d been traveling intensively since then, hardly home for more than three weeks at a time so for me being home is a pleasure, a real joy.”
*Chiquet will return to St. Louis May 28 for a book event at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center.