The Rejuvenating Powers of The Camellia – Visiting the CHANEL Open Sky Lab’s in Gaujacq

Nel-Olivia Waga
March 25, 2024
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March is not only the beginning of Spring, but also the month, in which the beautiful camellia flower reaches its peak blooming phase. Therefore my dear friends at CHANEL took me on a journey, I was looking forward to a long time. A journey to raw and authentic nature: CHANEL’s Camellia Farm in Gaujacq, France.

A trip that has started in Paris, taking “The Road To Camellias” on a dedicated CHANEL train. A train ride to Biarritz, that offered not only an en-wagon-CHANEL-hand-spa, with a hand massage by a CHANEL Beauty massage therapist including headphones with a CHANEL wellness playlist, but also a delicious farm-to-table CHANEL lunch menu, as well as a camellia journal to play with on the road.

Arrived at the CHANEL Camellia Farm in Gaujacq (in the rain, which brought out even more the beauty of nature), a place where the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel and the brand’s forward-thinking approach to beauty converge. Here, fashion and beauty are not just about adornment but about enhancing the innate allure of each woman, a vision that Gabrielle Chanel herself championed. This visit offered me an immersive look into how CHANEL continues to embody this ethos, blending tradition, innovation, and a profound respect for nature.

From the moment I stepped onto the farm, it was evident that CHANEL has not only preserved Gabrielle Chanel’s legacy of simplicity and authenticity but has also evolved it. The brand is actively aligning itself with the modern world’s demands while staying true to its roots. The rigorous selection of raw materials, the cultivation of exceptional plants, and the creation of proprietary natural ingredients all testify to CHANEL’s holistic approach.

Central to my visit was the story of the Camellia Farm, a project of exceptional scale that CHANEL has nurtured since 1998. In collaboration with Jean Thoby, an international camellia expert, CHANEL has built a unique botanical conservatory. This conservatory doesn’t just preserve over 2,000 varieties of camellias; it represents a living archive of Gabrielle Chanel’s passion for the flower.

The Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’, the star of the farm, is cultivated not only for its historical significance but also for its key role in CHANEL’s skincare innovations.

Aligned with its vision, we were served a farm-to-table lunch, on hand-painted flower plates, each representing a flower that grows on the farm, next to hand-picked flowers from the farm's gardens.

CHANEL’s agro-ecological approach to farming, which combines traditional practices with scientific innovation, was particularly striking. The farm’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship was evident in every aspect of its operation. The cultivation and harvesting processes, designed to be in harmony with nature, showcased CHANEL’s dedication to responsible beauty and more over to nature.

My tour also included a visit to the Gaujacq Phytoanalysis Laboratory, with Nicola Fuzzati, CHANEL’s Director of Innovation and Development for Cosmetic Ingredients, where the connection between the brand’s advanced research and its commitment to natural ingredient cultivation was on full display. Seeing how CHANEL transforms these meticulously nurtured plants into high-quality active ingredients reinforced my trust in the skincare I use and its transformative powers.

Witnessing the open sky laboratories and the botanical research centers, I saw where the magic begins – from the careful cultivation of plants like the Camelia Japonica “Alba Plena” to the creation of CHANEL’s proprietary natural ingredients, mainly used for CHANEL’s HYDRA BEAUTY line, dedicated to the plants moisturising benefits.

The red camellia, also called “The Czar”, is another star of the farm, which is the main ingredient of my favourite line, No1 de CHANEL. Derived from 97% natural materials, this beauty line, not just smells like nature and positive energy, it also feels like it. Besides the great benefits for my skin, its light texture is also rejuvenating and vitalising (I preferably use this one in summer).

I also love the fact, that the packagings are made from sustainable materials, such as the lid of the jar made from the shell of the camellia fruit, following the zero-waste-principle. (Another packaging perk: you can purchase refill’s for some of the products and keep the glass case).

The farm itself is the best example to the brand’s integrative approach to beauty. Philippe Grandry, the Crop Operations Manager, shared insights into CHANEL’s expert and ethical plant supply networks and biodiversity.

We dived into an afternoon hands-on- workshop about the importance planted forests and of cultivating homes for insects to keep the farm’s eco-system alive – and not just alive, but to prepare for the next 10 years ahead, by calculating risks and implementing solutions to climate change.

The farm's own insect-hotels to help reserve for a healthy eco-system.

The open sky laboratories and centers of botanical research are not just facilities for creating beauty products; they are the foundation of CHANEL’s vision, which sees beauty as encompassing wellness for both body and mind.

Reflecting on my experience, it’s clear that CHANEL’s approach to beauty is deeply holistic. The brand not only honors its rich heritage but also embraces the challenges of sustainability and innovation. Witnessing how CHANEL cultivates beauty, in the literal and figurative sense, was a reminder of the enduring power of Gabrielle Chanel’s vision. This journey to the Camellia Farm was not just an exploration of CHANEL’s commitment to beauty but a discovery to the brand’s ongoing dialogue with the natural world, a conversation that continues to inspire and evolve… Thank you CHANEL.

The perfect end, to a wonderful trip. A walk by the Atlantic Ocean on the beach of Biarritz.

HER/etiquette

Founded in 2014, re-launched in 2019 – by Nel-Olivia Waga. It is an international luxury lifestyle blog, that features stories under the aspect of a conscious mindset. It collaborates with leading brands and specialists who share the idea of generating a positive impact in the world. Based in Zurich and London, it covers local hotspots and global trends around sustainability, innovation, well-being, health, beauty, travel, time, art, business and charity.

Nel-Olivia Waga is the Founder & Publisher of HER/etiquette. She is a Brand Consultant, an Author and Entrepreneur, most passionate about well-being, travel, nature and art. Her work can regularly be seen in her column on FORBES. Her consultancy YMPACT LAB, creates innovative marketing projects for luxury brands based on passion, purpose and sustainable impact.

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#ConsciousLuxury is the theme of HER/etiquette. We combine luxury lifestyle with consciousness. Each story we share, is underlined with values. The purpose and innovation of the brands we collaborate with, are as important to us, as their initiatives towards ethical craftsmanship, sustainability, holistic health and social responsibility.

This is our first step in contributing to the global movement of creating a more positive impact in the world – and in you.

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CONSCIOUS LUXURY

#ConsciousLuxury is the theme of HER/etiquette. We combine luxury lifestyle with consciousness. Each story we share, is underlined with values. The purpose and innovation of the brands we collaborate with, are as important to us, as their initiatives towards ethical craftsmanship, sustainability, holistic health and social responsibility.

This is our first step in contributing to the global movement of creating a more positive impact in the world – and in you.

PLANT TREES WITH US

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