Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Home Lifestyle An "open-air" Landes laboratory dedicated to camellia, Chanel's emblematic flower
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An “open-air” Landes laboratory dedicated to camellia, Chanel’s emblematic flower

Camellias planted by the thousands on former farmland, an old house transformed into an analysis station: the house of Chanel is developing in a “open-air laboratory” in Gaujacq in the Landes, culture and research on the emblematic flower of its creator, Coco Chanel.

On these rich lands of Chalosse, south-east of Dax, the month of March corresponds to the peak of flowering of Camellia Japonica Alba Plena. They are there, the pickers to collect by hand the white flowers, delicate and odorless, with symmetrically overlapping petals. It will take 2,200 flowers to create a kilo of moisturizing active ingredient, entering into the composition of a range of creams created in 2009.

In his “Camellia Farm”, the Chanel’s open-air laboratory “has thousands of Alba Plena and Oleifera camellias. The latter, just planted, are intended to supply camellia oil, a production now made in China and which the luxury brand says want to eventually relocate to the Landes.

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On the estate, 40 hectares are cultivated without chemical inputs and in agroforestry, with the introduction of other trees for the balance of the ecosystem and biodiversity. And a brand new phytoanalysis laboratory has just joined a renovated building. “The Alba Plena is the starting point but the idea is to study the molecules of other varieties of plants”, explains Nicola Fuzzati, cosmetics innovation director.

To create this center of culture and experimentation, closed to the public but which could open to agricultural schools, three farms have been bought in recent years by Chanel from producers of corn, ducks and chickens retiring.

The distillation of camellia flowers produced in Gaujacq plantations in the Landes, March 10, 2021 (GAIZKA IROZ / AFP)

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Flower lovers already knew the Gaujacq path after the installation in 1985 of the expert botanist Jean Thoby. It is also thanks to him that Chanel made the choice of this village of 450 inhabitants. This world-renowned nurseryman who has worked with the brand for 20 years, keeps an exceptional collection of camellias in his Plantarium adjoining a 17th century castle, “2,000 varieties over five hectares”.

“The Alba Plena is very complicated to grow and it took dx years of experimentation to successfully establish a culture from two mother plants. Without Chanel, it is a species that we might have. lost “, he specifies without failing to salute the Landes climate which allows, according to him, to grow plants from five continents.

His first camellias come from the family collection in Nantes. Her parents had bought the Guichard nurseries there, renowned for the beauty of these shrubs from Asia presented at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Gabrielle Chanel would perhaps have admired them there, or “more surely at the florist of the rue Cambon in Paris who was supplied from them”, reports Jean Thoby, annoyed to have lost, during a water damage, an invoice attesting to their prestigious client.

Until now remained rather confidential, the presence of Chanel does not yet appear on any tourist brochure. But the fact that the famous house is now communicating on the premises is “a chance for Gaujacq and for the castle, it brings international notoriety and undoubtedly new visitors“, rejoices Philippe Casedevant, owner and guide of this stately home with Italian gallery.

Chanel financed the renovation of the reception rooms which, in return, will no longer host weddings but private events of the brand or cultural events open to the public.

On the Plantarium Thoby side, the camellia covered walkway, which is not very accessible today, should open to visitors next year. Through Chanel sponsorship, this part of the site is getting a facelift, by dressing up in informative tables on the varieties blooming in this former Gallo-Roman camp.

If Gabrielle Chanel has never said why she made camellia her favorite flower, she will use it in all her fashion collections but also jewelry. and today in its cosmetics. This video evokes this passionate craze.

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