With 25+ years beauty expertise, a background in engineering, and a Marketing mastermind, Sue has been honoured as one of British Vogue’s Top 25 Women Shaping the World (2018) and is renowned as being one of the original champions of industry diversity and a relentless pioneer in the re-definition of skincare.
Born in Algeria to a father who was at once an engineer, politician and a painter, Sue Nabi, from a young age, was inspired by a mind that could house both rationality and creativity; mix facts, numbers with art. Further enriched by her mother, a teacher with an affinity for words, she developed, effectively, two brains. Today, she attributes this ability to think holistically as key in the success she has enjoyed in both beauty and business.
While her left brain led to her training as an agronomist and acquiring a degree in engineering, it was Sue’s right brain – and lifelong appreciation for beauty, spurred by icons including Isabella Rossellini, Steve Strange and David Bowie – that led to her final degree in Luxury Marketing at ESSEC in Paris, and a key to entering the world of beauty.
Through a mix of passion, ambition and opportunity, she was offered a chance to prove herself at L’Oréal, as a Sales Representative for the launch of Jacques Dessange hair care in the South of France. Her talent and ability for bringing brands alive and giving them meaning in the way she spoke about them was recognized, and, within six years, sparked a rapid-fire succession of promotions that took her up L’Oréal’s corporate ladder.
Eschewing confidence and vision, and an indelible, integral sense of self, Sue – in four years – went from Marketing Director of Gemey-Maybelline (the world’s leading make-up brand) for France and Europe to Marketing Director for L’Oréal Make-Up Worldwide. It was in this role that she focused on innovation and took strategic steps, including changing packaging from purple to gold, to position L’Oréal as an affordable alternative to prestige make-up without any compromise on quality. It worked: leading to 10% growth and Nabi’s next role as L’Oréal France’s General Manager, running a 400ME Business Unit with a team of close to 400 people.
Two years on and, in 2005, Sue earned the top seat as President of L’Oréal.
Under her four-year tenure and a leadership that earned her awards including Cosmetique’s “Manager of the Year 2008” and Marie Claire’s “Prix d’Excellence de la Beauté” for 3 consecutive years, L’Oréal grew from a 3.2 BE to 4.0 BE enterprise.
Double-digit growth aside, it was how Sue reinvented the marketing of L’Oréal that built real brand equity, and elevated the image of the brand to unprecedented levels. In addition to the creation of runaway success lines including Age Perfect, Men Expert, and the re-launch of blockbuster products such as Revitalift, Nabi’s insight into the diversity that was lacking in beauty – which was predominantly youth-obsessed and dominated by mostly blonde-haired, European models – led to the development of progressive, iconic campaigns. Sue featured Jane Fonda, at 68, in her first beauty advertisement; signed actresses (and brunettes) including Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria and China’s Gong Li; recruited celebrities beyond Hollywood and from TV screens instead, including Patrick Dempsey from Grey’s Anatomy and Lost’s Matthew Fox; and introduced North and Central African models as spokespeople for L’Oréal brands. In addition to vastly widening the scope of marketing in beauty and consequently sparking conversation, Sue simultaneously focused on her core business strategy: to deliver high-end quality products at an affordable price.
In 2009, Sue stepped into the position of President of Lancôme to reinvigorate what had always been the jewel of The L’Oréal Group’s crown.
Apart from growing the business to 2.3 BE (an excess of 10% growth of turnover per year), and reinventing the brand’s image through collaborations with luminaries including Mario Testino, her creation of the multi-award-winning perfume, La vie est belle, was not only lauded as one of the most successful fragrance launches of all time but remains, today, Lancôme’s landmark success.
Sue’s vision to reinvent the Lancôme brand with a sense of purpose – as the brand of the smile – and her vision to recruit Julia Roberts, renowned by many as the world’s most famous smile, as well as her conscientious attention to all details of La vie est belle, from packaging to promotion, led to the fragrance’s success as the Number 1 Fragrance in France, and, still today, the Number 3 top- selling perfume in the world. In addition to La vie est belle, product launches including Visionnaire, Génifique, and the recruitment of celebrities including Emma Watson, took Lancôme from the its position as the third-ranked luxury beauty brand in 2009 to a global Number One position in 2012.
In 2013, after staggering success, Sue found herself at a crossroads in her life: a choice between remaining at L’Oréal or choosing to do something different.
She realized that it was the right moment to invent something new: something that would take beauty deeper, further, into what she had always believed, known and imagined it to be.
In 2014, inspired by her own health (and life) journey, she joined forces with co-founder and friend Nicolas Vu to launch a new product range and brand.
Green, clean and vegan, Orveda is an empowering, new-age skincare range that, based on the science of glow, offers a healthy approach to beauty. It is the culmination of Sue’s deepest beliefs, knowledge, expertise and understanding: of beauty and the science of life itself.