Behind the scenes at Yves Rocher in Paris

By: Julia McEwen

Author: Canadian Living


Behind the scenes at Yves Rocher in Paris

By: Julia McEwen
As an editor of one of Canada's most beloved magazines, on occasion I'm fortunate enough to be to be invited to experience an insider's look into mega beauty brands. In early spring an attractive envelope was lying on my desk prominently featuring the lime green Yves Rocher logo; inside was an invitation asking me to travel to France to visit the Yves Rocher head office in Paris and trek to the village of La Gacilly, where a majority of the manufacturing and harvesting is done. Of course, my answer was "Oui!" Here's my four day diary of my extraordinary journey, where I learned about the company's history and future plans for Yves Rocher, France's biggest beauty brand.

Day 1
I arrived in Paris at 10:30 a.m. on a gorgeous spring morning. At Charles de Gaulle International Airport, our impeccably chic Parisian hosts greeted me. With itinerary for the week in hand, I was briskly shuttled off to my hotel located in the heart of the Montparnasse quarter. The other editors and I hustled up to our rooms for a quick wardrobe change. The plan was to head over to the Yves Rocher's head office. But first, we eat!

Gazing out the window on the way to the River Café, a quirky restaurant on a docked canal boat, I was captivated by the established neighborhoods, stylish residents and breathtaking landmarks. After lunch we strolled across the street to the Yves Rocher head office and met the rest of the team.

Following a few presentations I learned that the corporation has remained an independent family-run operation, harvesting, manufacturing and retailing its own products. Plants are the driving force behind the brand. Yves Rocher was the first creator of botanical beauty, greatly aiding its success over the last fifty years.

Next up was a quick trip back to the hotel to get gussied up for dinner. We all headed down the street to the largest brassiere in Paris named "La Coupole". The last thing I remember is falling into bed in my petite boutique-style room. Jet lag, a full tummy and perhaps one to many glasses of Chardonnay fueled my deep sleep.

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Day 2
Bright and early I head back to the Yves Rocher head office to learn about the science behind botanical beauty. I visited the in-house laboratories where scientists test out new concoctions that create the makeup and skincare products we love, or soon will get to love! I was surprised to learn that all Yves Rocher products are derived from plants; their scientists have studied over 1,100 plant ingredients. I've been a devote vegetarian for over a decade, so I was relived to learn they stopped using animal testing in 1989 and none of the products contain ingredients from animal origins.

Following a delicious lunch across the canal at a colonial style residence surrounded by lush vegetation, I met Jacques Rocher (Yves Rocher's son). He spoke to us about some of the sustainable development projects that the Yves Rocher Group is working on. After my day at the office I was excited to get back to the hotel to slip into the most fabulous dress I packed and the most uncomfortable, yet gorgeous, heels I own.

We all headed to the Pompidou Centre to soak up some contemporary Parisian art and culture. I was lucky enough to attend the Elles@centrepompidou opening night. Yves Rocher is sponsoring this exhibition, which runs through to May 2010. It features 500 works by 280 women artists who address their issues and conceptions of beauty. I was surrounded by thought-provoking works of art, fashion-forward guests and a view to kill on the outdoor patio. At that moment I realized how blessed I am to experience a one-of-a-kind evening like this.

Day 3

A two-hour train ride through the French countryside took me to the region of Brittany in Western France where I boarded a bus to the small French village of La Gacilly. To give a boost to his hometown and revive its dying economy, Rocher generated jobs by building his headquarters in the village in 1959.

At last I arrive at the hotel; I was one of the first guests to stay at "La Gee des Landes" Eco-Spa Hotel created by Jacques Rocher. The hotel is designed as an eco-system; everything from the water, building materials, food and decor is closely connected to the surrounding natural elements.

After touring the hotel and its fertile grounds we all headed down to the village to visit Yves Rocher's birthplace and attic room. This room is where his very first formula was perfected, which happened to be a hemorrhoid cream! On we went for a tour of the Villes Geffs factory, which specializes in the manufacturing of cosmetics and liquid hygiene products.

Page 2 of 3 - Julia says goodbye to Paris on page 3!

Before heading back to the hotel I discovered the botanical gardens and certified organic fields. This was the highlight of my day. Being a visual learner it was a delight to see the raw ingredients destined to become beautifying lotions and potions. Before our delicious organic gourmet dinner, all the Canadian editors planted a tree in the backyard of the hotel to commemorate our stay and help reduce our carbon foot print.

Day 4
Before leaving La Gacilly I visited "Le Végétarium", which is Europe’s first museum devoted to plant life. The grounds looked like a whimsical water painting, a genuine indulgence for my senses. I was engulfed with an intoxicating floral aroma, which could have easily rivaled any fine French perfume.

It was time to return to Paris to visit the new Yves Rocher concept store. The brand is building a new identity along with a new logo. Over the next year they will be launching new concept beauty centers worldwide. The interior design uses materials and colours inspired by nature.

The new atelier is sectioned off into three areas: the botanical green house, which showcases cleansing products, cosmetics and perfumes; the botanical laboratory dedicated to the scientific approach to plants contains anti-ageing face creams, body soufflés and sun protection; and the botanical beauty spa. I had the opportunity to indulge in an ultra-pampering lavender facial. It was the cherry on top of an action-packed week.

My day ended with a dinner cruise that gently glided down the canal Seine. Through the glass canopy I took in the sights, ending with an illuminated Eiffel Tower. I went home with a whole new perception of Yves Rocher. The brand is dedicated to preserving the environment, understanding the plant world and making women feel beautiful.

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Behind the scenes at Yves Rocher in Paris