As Coco Chanel’s favourite flower, the camellia is one of the luxury French brand’s most enduring motifs, often recurring in its ultra chic fashion designs and packaging. But beauty lovers know another secret about this bloom too. It is also a botanical wonder that possesses many beautifying secrets within its pretty petals, such as the red camellia extract used to supercharge Chanel’s Nº1 de Chanel collection.
The red camellia is the star ingredient for Nº1 de Chanel collection due to its ability to condense its energy and nutrients to bloom in winter – perfect attributes for a skincare range that aims to revitalise the skin cells’ vitality and health and strengthening the skin barrier function.
And the institution responsible for uncovering many of the skin-friendly properties of this remarkable flower is Chanel’s open-sky laboratory, in the village of Gaujacq in southwest France. For years, Chanel has been preserving, cultivating and experimenting on an array of plants across various climatic zones in a sustainable way that combines traditional farming methods with scientific innovation.
In Gaujacq, under the meticulous stewardship of international camellia expert Jean Thoby, the five-hectare botanical conservatory is dedicated specifically to the research, innovation and experimental cultivation of the camellia. A leader in the niche field of camellia science and agroecology, Gaujacq is home to some 2,000 varieties of camellias gathered from around the world.
“The climate of Gaujacq is known for its rainfall spread over the four seasons. The winds are almost non-existent, the land is deep and the springs are abundant,” says Thoby, explaining why this region’s climatic conditions are ideal for cultivating this flower. (Fun fact: These varietals include two seedlings from mother plants supposedly ordered by Mademoiselle Chanel herself more than a hundred years ago.)
It is at this on-site phyto-analysis laboratory where Chanel Research identifies the most promising camellias for their cosmetic properties such as the hydrating Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’, which is used in the Hydra Beauty skincare range.
International camellia expert Jean Thoby has traveled to five different continents to meet the remarkable flower’s most eminent enthusiasts, which has helped him develop a more precise approach to camellia cultivation.
More recently, scientists observed how the red Camellia japonica, otherwise known as “The Czar”, has a unique ability to condense its energy and nutrients to bloom in winter. Inspired by this knowledge, the lab conducted research and made a major breakthrough that has ultimately led to the creation of a whole new skincare line, Nº1 de Chanel.
What the team discovered is that the petals of “The Czar” contain a concentration of protocatechuic acid, a specific active molecule that has previously not been found in any other camellias it analysed.
The fields of Chanel’s open-sky laboratory in Gaujacq, France, span 70 hectares and house 40,000 camellia trees.
This active extract plays a key role in preventing cells from entering the stage of deterioration called senescence by revitalising the skin cells’ vitality and health and strengthening the skin barrier function. This now forms the heart of every formulation in the Nº1 de Chanel line, where every product contains up to 76 per cent of camellia extracts, oils and fresh camellia water.
Farm to bottle: the red camellia extract discovered in Gaujacq is the heart of the nine-member Nº1 de Chanel family which comprises six skincare products, two colour products and a fragrance mist.
Best of all, to keep to its ethos of environmental sustainability, the large-scale cultivation of “The Czar” is carried out with a partner on Jeju Island, South Korea without the use of pesticides or chemical treatment to respect the ecosystem, according to standards comparable to those in Gaujacq.
Now that is a true commitment to beauty, in all senses of the word.