Sustainable luxury for a new generation of beauty (and plant) lovers, read all about Chanel’s Open Sky Laboratory and Camellia Farm …
The camellia was famously the favourite flower of Gabrielle Chanel. But it’s more than just a pretty symbol – Chanel have made it their mission to become experts in the field of camellia flowers, quite literally, with a unique Open Sky Laboratory and Camellia Farm where it grows and tests every part of their emblematic flower. It’s the ultimate in inspiration from nature.
Chanel has several open-sky laboratories around the world, in various different climates. And since 1998, the brand has collaborated with international camellia expert Jean Thoby, in Gaujacq, in the southwest of France. Thoby’s specialist conservatory garden has flourished here for decades – their oldest Camellia japonica plant was propagated in 1876. Here, the conditions and climate is perfect for their cultivation: temperatures are similar to China and Japan, the countries of origin, while the unique location, between the sea and the Pyrenees, with rare winds and deep acid soil, also favours the camellia.
I was fascinated to visit the Chanel Camellia Farm, with 40 hectares devoted to this special flower. This unique project is not only a great source of knowledge for Chanel’s laboratories; but also it is a key centre of plant conservation, helping to safeguard certain species of the flower that might otherwise have died out. What’s key here, says Nicola Fuzzatti, director of innovation and development for cosmetic ingredients, is not only the 2,000 varieties of the flower, but also having a lab very close to the fields: “this enables us to control production from field to end result.”
Sarah Halliwell on a visit to Chanel’s open sky laboratory and camellia farm.
Chanel’s pioneering Open Sky Laboratory is a centre for reseach and innovation, so the company can guarantee the sustainability and production of the plants they source. There is a lab on site, right by the fields, to allow immediate tests on the plants the minute they are harvested. “We can go forward more quickly and conserve the molecules,” says Fuzzatti. “We use everything we have – that’s an advantage of being here so close to the plants.” Every part of the camellia is valuable, notes Jean Thoby.
Chanel Research found the Camellia japonica to have “exceptional moisturising properties”, and the red camellia japonica is the key active in the N°1 de Chanel beauty line (which first launched in January 2022). Its petals are concentrated in exceptional levels of protocatechuic acid, an active molecule known for its antioxidant properties, and found by Chanel scientists to be capable of protecting and increasing cellular vitality, by 67 per cent – and so the range is centred on revitalising. The Alba Plena white camellia, meanwhile, has key properties too for hydration, and has been the principal active ingredient in the Hydra beauty line since 2011.
You don’t have to go as far as the south of France to experience the delights of the red camellia. Try the N°1 de Chanel Rich Revitalising Cream (€100) in the line, a luxurious luscious moisturiser (with refills, €85). Personally, I’ve been obsessed with the Lip & Cheek Balms since the minute they first launched. I’m not alone – they are constantly selling out, simply because they are great to use on both lips and cheeks for a natural-looking healthy flush, moisturising while tinting. My tip is to nab the dark cherry shade, Berry Boost, in time for autumn. The pot lids, meanwhile, are an example of the sustainable focus of this beauty line: the shells of the camellia seeds are ground and incorporated into the pot lids, to avoid waste. Meanwhile, L’Eau Rouge Revitalising Fragrance Mist is an elegant light and bright take on the camellia by Chanel perfumer Olivier Polge; the flower itself has no scent, so he has created an uplifting scent of rose, jasmine and berries.
Sustainable luxury for a new generation of beauty (and plant) lovers.
N°1 de Chanel is available at counters nationwide; www.chanel.com.