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L’Occitane: at the heart of Provence

To be honest, I never treated L’Occitane seriously. What can you think when you receive a press-release for a product called “Immortal Divine”? Maybe something like “How the hell is it divine?” — and nothing more. And I’m absolutely incapable of wrapping my small head around the stories about how the wonderful plant immortelle already in ancient times became a favourite of some gods in Corsica. I like big scientific foreign-sounding press-releases that make your tongue twist and make you feel a little bit smarter from just reading them (and outrageously proud of yourself if you actually understood anything). And no questions about why the replenishing product costs, say, $200.

Unlike my fellow journalists, I’m not a press-tour expert. However, even based on my little experience I can say that the trip with L’Occitane to celebrate 35 years of the company in Provence was unusual. It was unusual in the way that it unexpectedly changed my attitude to the brand.

My friends, I am truly delighted by it and, therefore, you will have to endure a few of my posts on L’Occitane at once – this is a warning to those who don’t like such things. But blogs were created precisely to pour out one’s emotions, right? 🙂

First of all, it was hard to restrain yourself from taking pictures of everything around you. The tiny town of Forcalquier (altogether 5000 inhabitants) in the Alps is the place where – in one of the houses around one of the corners – the founder of the brand Olivier Baussan lives.

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It took us 40 minutes to look around the town centre including the hilltop Citadel, a local tourist attraction. As it’s usually the case in such places, at 7pm on a Sunday everything was closed. Totally deserted, really.

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forcalqie-loccitane6But we did find a cinema and some lovely elderly gentlemen sitting on a bench there.

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We should think we were very lucky: on one of the days of the press-tour we had dinner at Olivier Baussan’s and had a chance to see one of those houses not only on the outside but also on the inside. The house, built in 14th century, used to belong to some kind of a local prince (please, excuse the inaccuracies but a lot was said in French, a language I practically don’t remember). Spacious, with three storeys and high ceilings, the house of L’Occitane’s founder is full of art pieces – his parents were painters and sculptors. Among all that art a huge black dog belonging to Monsieur Olivier runs around, scaring journalists with mobility incredible for its size; the dog is, by the way, harmless and absolutely in love with its master (however, his wife mentioned something about their previous dog not being so kind to journalists:)).

olivier-baussanOlivier Baussan in the fields of immortelle.

A question bothered me about how Olivier, with a degree in literature, came to make the decision to start a cosmetic company. So I asked him. “My parents moved to Provence because they wanted to try farming, growing crops. Unfortunately, strong frost came one winter, destroying most of their future harvest and so their dream didn’t come true. I guess I’m trying to accomplish what they couldn’t,” replied Olivier.

If you’re wondering what cosmetics have to do with farming, you need to know that for L’Occitane those two things are inseparable. But I will tell you more about it in the next post 🙂

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