An outing to a L’Occitane en Provence boutique is reminiscent of a trip to the region from which the French beauty company takes its name. From the bright yellow signage and the limewashed walls, to the warm ochre terracotta floors, there are notes of Provence everywhere. The region also inspired the likes of novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, poet Paul Arène, and artists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, whose work influenced designs inside the company’s recently opened Vancouver boutique. “We’re trying to convey the warmth, the generosity of Provence, wherever you are—even from miles away,” says Paul Blackburn, L’Occitane’s design director for the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Today the company has over 2,000 boutiques in more than 100 countries, a far cry from the company’s origins in France. L’Occitane was founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan, who began his business by distilling rosemary essential oil and selling it in local markets with just a small truck and an old steam distiller. After a chance encounter with the owner of a soap factory, Baussan began hand-crafting traditional Marseille soaps like the ones still carried in store today.
While the design details of each boutique are astute, it’s the ingredients in the products themselves that really transport customers to the south of France; every item stems from a love of the land. Immortelle, harvested in the Corsican countryside, is rich in anti-aging properties, and lavender, one of the first flowers distilled by Baussan, is a soothing tribute to the region. For spring, L’Occitane turns to almond for its toning and regenerating powers, launching the Velvet Body serum and balm in April 2015. “We are famous for our Shea Butter hand cream,” says David McConnachie, L’Occitane’s general manager in Canada and the vice president of retail development for the United States. “We sell one every three seconds around the world.” Indeed, this product (and its Magic Key accessory), along with the silky Almond Milk Concentrate moisturizing cream, aromatic Lavender Foaming Bath, and Immortelle Divine Eyes cream should be mainstays in any beauty cabinet.
With even more locations to come in Canada, including one in Lake Louise slated to open in April, devotees and newcomers alike can get the best of Provence the world over. “We try to create unique moments in our stores that set us apart,” says Blackburn. “So whether that is a fragrance ritual where customers close their eyes and they’re transported to the lavender fields of Provence, or if they have a mini hand massage and their hands have never felt smoother … or, for the gentlemen, a wet shave, we try to create a traditional experience.”