I was delighted to get the chance to listen to cosmetic industry demigod Alban Muller at the recent annual meeting of the Scandinavian Society of Cosmetic Scientists. Almost as an aside he brought up the subject of the Cosmetic Valley – a sort of European version of Silicon Valley for cosmetic and perfume producers. It is centred on Paris and takes in a big slice of northern France. Paris, of course, has a long tradition of luxury goods. This goes back to the days of the Bourbons, whose excessive lifestyles gave rise to the phrase ‘Bourbon Excess’. Paris became the centre of the art of perfumery, and even when the royal and aristocratic patrons got their heads cut off enough demand remained to keep the show on the road.
This tradition continues with a lot of big name brands having bases in this area. There are too many to mention by name but include plenty of worldwide household names like Chanel, Paco Rabanne, Clarines, Dior and so on. These are only the tip of a fragrant, well cleansed and highly moisturised iceberg. There are also supporting companies supplying raw materials and packaging, farms producing natural ingredients and universities providing training and education.
Like Silicon Valley, all of this has grown up naturally albeit over a rather longer time period. Unlike Silicon Valley a formal organisation has been set up to co-ordinate and develop it. So you can sign up to be a member of Cosmetic Valley – though you have to be in the cosmetic business and located in the geographical area defined as the two departments of Ile de France and Haut Normandie. So sadly I can’t join the club, even though I am more or less directly across the Channel from it so could claim to be a neighbour.
The organisation does all the things you might expect something like that to do. It organises meetings, encourages networking between businesses and supports training initiatives. It is also a great platform for benchmarking and spreading best practice. But it also has an environmental charter. This encourages members to adopt and continually improve their green policies. This is a nice touch and one that I hope catches on. It sort of makes sense for an industry that aims to keep its customers clean to also try to keep the planet we all live on clean as well.