We’ve had a busy couple of months with the Dirty launch and other projects! Mark and Simon are back in the lab and we’re all hoping for something new and exciting for later this year. Meanwhile, Lush as a whole has been redesigning its training system and a handful of strong candidates from different parts of the business have been appointed to the new role of a trainer-in-training. (Yes, that’s a mouthful. A whole bunch of us have been saying train-the-trainers over and over again for a while now so we’re used to it).
The training course they’re still in the middle of is pretty intense – nine weeks of first-hand practical experience, time with our founder-inventors, and their support staff, as well as some pretty tough exams – and very exciting trips! Below is Simon’s account of his trip to Grasse with our new trainers. Agnes is our essential oils buyer and Simon’s travel companion on many trips to visit our suppliers.
Train the trainers trip
I first visited Grasse in February, 2004. It was my first trip to the heart of French perfumery and the first trip I ever made with Agnes, our essential oils buyer. It lay the foundations for almost every other trip that I have been on with Agnes. She brought too much luggage, she talked the whole time and she wore the wrong shoes!
Our visit was the first step on a road to educate ourselves on perfumery and the world of essential oils and aromatic ingredients. It’s quite surreal to think that in these seven years we have literally scoured the globe visiting tribesmen on remote pacific islands, smugglers in south India (and more besides) to understand as much as we could about ‘the trade’.
Being back in Grasse was fantastic, much more so than I expected. We were accompanied by trainers from around the Lush world, all of whom were eager to learn as much about perfumery as we could teach them. And so what better place to start than the south of France? Blooms of bright yellow mimosa flowers stretched up into the hills as we arrived in the small town of Grasse. Our first stop was the International Museum for Perfumery (Museé International de la Parfumerie). They have made a great effort to make perfumery and ingredients the centre of the museum, complete with provençal and tropical gardens with ylang, vetivert, orange flower and lavender plants to see and touch. As an ingredients ‘freak’ , as one of our suppliers phrased it, I loved it!
The next day Agnes had arranged for us to make a trip to visit Jean Françoise. Jean Françoise is considered one of the best distillers in the industry. He, and his family have grown and distilled oils in the region for generations and he is the man entrusted to grow and distil Chanel’s Rose de Mai, a fine quality rose oil only grown in Grasse.
Here all the trainers were given a lesson in how the distillation process works both for essential oils and then on to the solvent extraction of absolutes. To me these are vital processes but very difficult to describe, so being fortunate enough to have one of the worlds finest talk us through it was the ultimate classroom experience! In fact he was just in the process of extracting some vanilla absolute for us to use in our products.
It was a real pleasure to re-visit where it all began and to have the opportunity to enthuse others with a passion for perfumery and ingredients that we have.
Check back tomorrow for Simon’s sea air experiment…