It’s seen everywhere – on necklaces, rings, belt buckles, and even watches. Indeed, the camellia is truly the flower of CHANEL. The late Karl Lagerfeld even created a wedding dress that was adorned with 2,500 handmade white camellias as the finale for the brand’s FW ’05/’06 collection.

A favourite of founder Gabrielle Chanel, it was said to be the first flower that her lover and muse Arthur “Boy” Capel gave her. She was often seen with it on her button lapel, as the scentless flower did not clash with her signature N° 5 perfume.

So, it was only natural that CHANEL’s Research team turned to the camellia for inspiration.

Uncovering The Secrets Of The Bloom

In 1998, CHANEL started a project with international camellia expert Jean Thoby to research the secrets that this delicate bloom holds.

After years of experiments, the brand carried out its first cultivation of the Camellia Japonica “Alba Plena” in 2009. A plant with exceptional moisturising properties, it is the key ingredient in CHANEL’s well-loved Hydra Beauty range. The study of the plant’s resistance to winter frost led to the discovery of the iconic camellia alba PFA, which restores and maintains water reserves by activating skin’s natural hydration mechanisms. Through on-going research, the CHANEL Research team developed five different ingredients from this unique plant, including camellia water, camellia wax and camellia yeast extract (the latest active used in the new CHANEL Hydra Beauty Camellia Glow Concentrate).

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CHANEL Hydra Beauty Micro Serum, $200

Get it here.

A Holistic Approach

To ensure optimal production conditions for the emblematic camellia, CHANEL founded an open-sky laboratory (CHANEL Camellia Farm) and an on-site phytoanalysis laboratory in Gaujacq, in southwestern France. With its balanced summer and winter temperatures – and adequate rainfall across all four seasons – the region is ideal for the camellia to thrive in.

It is here that 2,700 Camellia Japonica “Alba Plena” plants are cultivated in open fields. “We work to ensure that our production methods preserve local ecosystems, maintain biological equilibrium and contribute to biodiversity conservation,” says Philippe Grandry, CHANEL’s Crop Operations Manager in Gaujacq, France. “The agroecological approach has led us to not only ban the use of chemical fertilisers, but also consider the plant as part of its ecosystem.”

Philippe Grandry, CHANEL’s Crop Operations Manager in Gaujacq, France
Philippe Grandry, CHANEL’s Crop Operations Manager in Gaujacq, France

Nicola Fuzzati, CHANEL’s Director of Innovation and Development for Cosmetic Ingredients, adds: “The presence of the Laboratory of Phytoanalysis as close as possible to the crops reduces the time between the harvest and the study, as well as the environmental impact.”

Nicola-Fuzzati
Nicola Fuzzati, CHANEL’s Director of Innovation and Development for Cosmetic Ingredients

This permanent dialogue between the Gaujacq laboratory and the advanced research laboratory in Pantin allows CHANEL Research to control the quality and traceability of the plant and the final product. This is especially important as these are not only ecological issues, but ethical and economic ones as well.

This increased presence on the ground together with CHANEL’s scientific expertise give the scientists a unique perspective on nature’s potential in the realm of beauty. “We are convinced that the way we respect the synergies between the different components of the soil is expressed through quality plants in the service of CHANEL Research,” says Nicola.