When Christian Dior launched his first collection in 1947, he dubbed it “Corolle,” the French term for flower petals. Straying from the boxy, fabric-saving styles of World War II, Dior looked to silhouettes inspired by nature, such as the delicate shape of flowers. “I have designed flower women,” he said, justifying the couture house’s hip padding and flared-out petticoats.
Just a few years later in 1951, the designer made his way to the castle town of Montauroux, near the perfume capital of Grasse in the South of France. Trails of white jasmine circling the Château de La Colle Noire drew the designer to this piece of property, which he referred to as his “true home.” He planted a garden of May roses, olive and fruit trees, similar to the garden he grew up with at his childhood home in Normandy. And now that same garden in the South of France, along with local producers, provides the base for Dior flowers used in the brand’s fragrances.
Floral-based perfumes have had their place in history for centuries, but now petals are finding their way into beauty products and spa treatments that go beyond scent, with everything from soaking salts to seasonal massages inspired by flowers sourced in the surrounding landscape.
While walking through the boutique-lined streets of Brera in Milan last week, I stumbled across a pop-up shop with a flower-lined entrance. As I walked inside, an architect table was converted into a makeshift florist, with flowers and branches divided by color and style sitting in piles. As girls expertly weaved these petals into flower crowns akin to what you’d see at music festivals like Coachella, a tall Italian man with one of these flower arrangements jutting out of his suit pocket approached me. “Have you smelled the new Botanicals?” he asked. He was referring to L’Oréal Paris’ recently launched nature-inspired haircare line, Botanicals Fresh Care.
The pop-up shop was filled with laboratory-style flasks holding the different flowers and herbs that went into the accompanying products. Playing on the organic and eco-friendly trend, these products replaced silicone, parabens and dye with raw, natural materials like coconut- and soy-based botanicals, each with a specific purpose. Coriander, for example, is meant to revitalize fragile hair, while camelina oil softens and smooths. “Our goal is to offer a premium experience and high-quality products inspired by nature to the largest number of people as possible, especially devotees of a healthy lifestyle—those who, if given the option, would choose their bike over a moped and organic food over junk food—as well as eco-conscious consumers,” explained Anne Machet, L’Oréal Paris deputy CEO International, in a recent statement on the debut of the new hair care brand.
Provence-based line L’Occitane has looked to flowers and herbs for its plant-based products for nearly two decades now, drawing inspiration from wild growing flowers like the golden Immortelle. Known to never fade (even after it’s been picked), the brand made this Corsican plant from the Balagne region mainstream in 2001. The products play on the flower’s anti-inflammatory and healing benefits used traditionally in Mediterranean medicinal practices. The result: a collection centered around anti-aging, with regenerative products used in facial treatments at five-star spas in the South of France, such as Spa by L’Occitane at Château de Valmer, a former winery mansion surrounded by 12 acres of woodland not far from Saint-Tropez.
Over in Southern California, Spa Montage Laguna Beach is also looking to its wildflower-filled coastline for a more foraged type of treatment this spring. Flowers here serve two healing purposes. Floral essences start the relaxation process with a bout of aromatherapy before heated flower poultices form a massage compress designed to restore balance to the body, as well as relieve any aches and pains. Next comes the Seven Flower Ritual, where floral oils are incorporated into a neroli flower scalp massage to ease tension, followed by a softening foot massage of jasmine and orange extract.
Image: courtesy of Spa Montage Laguna Beach
The city of Carlsbad, meanwhile, is celebrating its flower-lined fields during the first Petal to Plate celebration, a 10-day flower-themed festival kicking off April 20 with events from field-to-vase dinners 125-seat dinner party popping up in field of Persian buttercup flowers—to floral spa treatments.
Image: courtesy of Spa Montage Laguna Beach
At the Ocean Crest Spa at Cape Rey Carlsbad, many of the products are already organic, vegan and sea-based, but in honor of the flower festivities, the spa is introducing an 80-minute hibiscus-centered scrub and massage. The treatment incorporates hibiscus flower petals along with other flower essences, oils and Dead Sea salt that’s the perfect precursor to a floral mimosa cocktail at the restaurant. After sipping on some bubbly, finish off the day with a floral version of a cheese board: a plate of foraged goodies like lavender and wild fennel pollen goat cheese, wildflower honey, sprouted sunflower crostini, and hibiscus sorbet, making your Hibiscus-filled day come full circle from massage to meal.
Lane Nieset is a freelance travel writer based out of Miami, Florida.