Chanel Sublimage: What the $350 Price Tag Also Funds

At $350 for 1.7 ounces of Essential Regenerating Cream (and a steeper $425 for the Essential Revitalizing Concentrate Serum), you could be investing in Botox or other quick-fix injectables. But Chanel’s price point, it seems, isn’t about drawing attention to the latest “It” product in the pursuit of youthful skin. It’s also about supporting the brand’s initiative to harvest natural resources while also helping to conserve them. Let me break down that loaded statement: In 2005, Xavier Ormancey, head of Chanel’s Cosmetic Research Laboratory in Sophia Antipolis, France, traveled to Northern India to visit a biodiversity “hotspot” in the Himalayas called Ladakh. He studied a plant that was important to Tibetan Amchi medicine—a practice rooted in herbalism and endemic to the villages of the area. This plant, known as the Golden Champa, was rich in something called “flower esters.” It was was also the magic ingredient the Chanel researcher had been looking for.

Indeed, studying the Golden Flower proved important to the billion-dollar beauty industry, and Chanel was at the forefront of the breakthrough “discovery.” But the local culture and the lack of laws regarding such procedures needed to be acknowledged. Chanel’s collective conscience kicked in: the over-harvesting of wild plants in the area meant that the region’s natural resources would be in danger. Doubly, the fact that the local fields and pastures were unmonitored meant that Chanel had free license to go in and take whatever they pleased—and so could anyone else. But instead of pillaging the Amchi’s medicinal resources, they decided to launch a project to preserve both the plants as well as the very important local knowledge passed down by the Amchi medical tradition.

Ormancey, known as Chanel’s Indiana Jones, decided to partner with a local non-governmental agency called the Ladakh Society for Traditional Medicine (LSTM) to launch a project aimed at preserving the region’s botanical heritage. The project not only oversees harvesting and extraction processes in the Himalayas, but it also focuses on educating locals, working to be sure the traditional practice of Amchi medicine is shared and passed on for the well-being of the local population.

LSTM is an independent Ladakhi non-profit organization, recognized by the governments of Ladakh and India. As per Lunga Travel, LSTM projects play an active role in revitalizing Amchi medicine, insuring the survival of this important component of Ladakhi life – and an irreplaceable part of the world’s heritage. In LSTM’s Annual Report, dated 2008, it did list Chanel as a “Founder,” though I can’t find much more data on the project or subsequent partners since it was founded back in 2000. Chanel is also listed under Nomad RSI’s (the umbrella NGO of LSTM) “Financial Partners” list. I hope Chanel will highlight their initiative and share further information on the project known as “Chanel Project in Ladakh” in order to shed more light on on the issue of overharvesting in the name of beauty, and to show just how much good this project actually does.

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