Cultivating beauty: You can't travel, but you can take a trip to Chanel's gardens with us

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

The lockdown has inspired many to go back to basics, appreciate the simple things in life, and even prompted some to start seizing the day. 

Wholesome home activities and viral challenges are now the hallmark of our Instagram feeds, with banana bread also establishing itself as the influencer we never knew we needed. And although we're collectively trying to make the most of our time indoors without letting on that cabin fever might be starting to gnaw away at us ever so slightly, it's okay to admit that you miss life outside. 

From the hikers to the joggers to the social butterflies who feed on the nectar of fermented grapes on weekends, we all miss a kind of beauty that only nature can provide. 

Personally, I love flowers and basking in the sun for no reason at all. And even though I reside in a concrete jungle and an even concrete(er) apartment block, albeit being both a coastal girl and a farm girl (see below for a picture of my mom social distancing in our garden), I'm still a sucker for all things green, sunny, pollinated, and furry. 

stepping outside with chanel
Image: Writer's own 

With that said, there's also been an increase in pet appearances on social media. Well, dogs and cats rather than horses - either way, the shift towards an affinity for nature and her gifts is clear. As this W24 article put it; "Stories about love, kindness, and quieter lives have become the silver lining in the difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic," and has therefore "set social media feeds alight." 

READ MORE: Lockdown living - From a couple meeting for tea across closed border gates to a reimagined earth 

So we may not be shopping any luxury items during this time, but those online shopping wishlists are probably getting longer than a grocery store queue during peak period for an essential items run.

What's on these wishlists? Scented candles? Makeup brushes? Pot plants? A statement pair pf stompers for your first post-lockdown razzle? High-end beauty products? Perfume?

Well imagine you could add a virtual trip through the fields where Chanel cultivates beauty. You actually don't have to imagine - we've got your fix right here. For the next few minutes, imagine you just got granted a pass to go outside for the sole purpose of luxury. 

READ MORE: DIY skin and spa treatments - Just because you're locked down, it doesn't mean your pores have to be   

Learn all about how Chanel brings their skincare products and fragrances to life all from nature: 

From the plant to science 

Chanel unveils its plant supply chains – open-sky laboratories that are centers for cultivation, observation and experimentation – located all over the world. As the authentic cradles of Chanel skincare, these plant supply chains are the fruit of a drive for excellence through which the House is showing its commitment to exemplary sourcing on the environmental and territorial levels. By choosing to draw on nature for the raw materials of its skincare products, Chanel is taking a long-term vision as it continues to write its story of responsible commitments.  

chanel cultivating beauty

READ MORE: The minimalist and ethical beauty kit: here's everything you need to know according to the makeup artist who's worked with Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell and Kim K

From fragrance to skincare  

To create its skincare products, the House considers it important to apply the same rules of rigor and authenticity as those implemented for its fragrances. It is with the same virtuous patience that the House is pursuing its approach to excellence and monitoring the quality of its raw materials. It all began with vanilla. While the Laboratory of Fragrance Creation and Development had chosen vanilla for its fragrant properties, the skincare chemists analysed the substance and discovered incredible active molecules with anti-aging properties. 

chanel cultivating beauty

Chanel Research took over from there. The first open-sky laboratory was founded in 2002 on the island of Madagascar. This center for botanical cultivation, research and experimentation makes it possible to reveal the full active power of the Vanilla planifolia species of vanilla and to extract the botanical treasures that are harnessed for the benefit of Sublimage beauty products. Since then, the Chanel Research botanists and phytochemists have been exploring the planet in search of promising plants, studying their behaviour within their natural habitats, and analysing their compositions in order to select those with the most beneficial cosmetic properties.

Three other open-sky laboratories were to follow: two in France – one in the Southern Alps and one in the foothills of the Pyrenees, near Gaujacq – and one in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. At the heart of these centers, each of which is located in a different climate zone in the world for better, more varied access to biodiversity, the plants are cultivated through the work of men and women who are enriched by their communities and expertise. Because these plant supply chains are based in territories that face a variety of challenges, their cultural and agricultural specificities were an integral part of their conception. 

Now let's meet the plants...

Bringing vanilla to its full potential 

Where? Madagascar

chanel cultivating beauty

Vanilla planifolia is a type of vanilla that is rich in anti-aging molecules. Its potential was discovered by Chanel Research in 2000, making it possible to bring forth the SUBLIMAGE beauty care line. Since the 2005 creation of a first active ingredient with regenerating properties using the ripe pods, Chanel Research has continued to observe and study this type of vanilla in order to bring all the parts of the plant to their potential. It is now able to extract the best of its leaves, flowers and fruits at various stages of ripening. To date, other active ingredients have been created using Vanilla planifolia, and its seeds are used as an exfoliating agent. 

Mademoiselle's flower 

Where? Southwest of France 

chanel beauty

Mademoiselle Chanel’s favorite flower has been continuously blooming since 2008 in the southwest of France. Chanel extracts the best of its hydrating properties. Thanks to the collaboration that it established in 2005 with Jean Thoby – an internationally renowned nurseryman and camellia expert – Chanel Research brought forth, in 2009, the first hydrating active ingredient taken from the flowers of Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’, the botanical treasure of the HYDRA BEAUTY skincare line. To the present day, other active ingredients followed, each entering in turn the composition of CHANEL skincare products. 

Anthyllis and Solidago 

Where? French Alps  

cultivating beauty with chanel

In 2014, a space was set out for their cultivation. Thanks to a partnership with a local farmer, Déborah Courron, Chanel is rising to the challenge of acclimating mountain plants that naturally develop at high altitudes so that they may be cultivated at 1,000 m (3,281 ft) of altitude. Déborah Courron enthusiastically cultivates them with the greatest respect for nature, performing the weed control entirely by hand. She harvests the full aerial parts and dries them in the traditional way on trays. Protecting the natural qualities of these two plants and bringing them to their full potential have enabled the creation of two active ingredients, anthyllis extract and solidago extract, which are both present in the SUBLIMAGE skincare line. 

Green coffee

Where? Costa Rica  

cultivating beauty with chanel

In 2013, Chanel Research discovered the incredible properties of a coffee plant specific to Costa Rica that is exceptionally rich in antioxidant molecules. In 2015, CHANEL established a partnership with a local social enterprise, Alianza Campesina Flora Nueva, and a neighboring coffee farming cooperative. The cultivation method aims to protect the natural qualities of the plant. The cherries are harvested when ripe and sun-dried according to a traditional method. The unroasted green grains are cold-pressed on-site to obtain a raw oil on which, in 2015, a highly protective active ingredient was based. 

Additional information and images supplied by Chanel

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