L’Occitane opened a national flagship yesterday to a lot more fanfare than we expected. Lines around the Flatiron block. Really? Ladies, there are 12 other locations in the city!
But apparently the words “flagship” and “free samples” inspire busy women to take an early lunch and wait in the cold. Or L’Occitane is spiking the Shea Butter Hand Cream with something besides almond oil.
What all this tells us is that New York women are clearly desperate for a whiff of Provence. Grand opening perks included champagne, fromages, and a live harpist. (Cause harps are huge in Provence?) And, of course, a tote full of sample-size products.
The new location stocks the same well-known body, skin, and hair care products.
But it uniquely features a “greenhouse” treatment area, where you can get quick mini facials, hand massages, and other services, some of which are free.
Bringing the South of France fantasy full circle is an iPad photo booth that superimposes a shot of you in a Provencal lavender field or other similarly transporting settings.
In fact, L’Occitane’s botanical influences figure heavily in the flagship, which showcases photos of the farms and fields of its ingredient producers, and fresh shea nuts and immortelle flowers, the hero ingredients in its best-selling anti-aging line.
“It’s straight from the tree,” said Max Gieger, L’Occitane’s New York retail director, as he invited me to smell a bottle of almond oil. “That’s why it smells so fresh.” That may be a slight exaggeration—although it did smell strikingly almondy.
While the brand does take a farm-to-face approach with its marquee ingredients, most L’Occitane products contain chemicals that natural beauty mavens won’t want near their skin, like propylene glycol, PEGs, and parabens.
Gieger said that the brand is constantly working to reformulate its products to make them as natural as possible. “We’re really trying every day to get as close to 100 percent natural and organic as we can.”
If they do, they may need a few more boutiques. —Lisa Elaine Held