Last month (oh good God, I’ve just realised that it could have been the month before, which is absolutely terrible! I’m so bad at keeping on top of my posts!) I was invited by Clarins to take a tour of their headquarters, including the manufacturing plant and the development labs. Obviously I jumped at the chance – I have always wanted to see behind-the-scenes at a beauty factory. I imagined huge vats filled with bright pink, gloopy liquids and rows and rows of ladies lying on loungers with cucumber slices over their eyes, testing out the latest products.
This fantasy was only heightened by the fact that one of my group (I’m pretty sure it was Really Ree) mentioned the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; my imagination went completely beserk. What catastrophes could befall one at a cosmetics factory, I thought? What dreadful fates might we all have if we fail to follow the safety instructions issued to us by our very own Willy Wonka? Possibilities that arose from my musings:
1) Someone falls into a machine that is mixing up the very latest, most potent version of Clarins’ bestselling Lift Minceur anti-cellulite treatment*. At first, all is well, but as the factory people rush around trying to find a long stick to fish the unfortunate person out with, a strange thing begins to happen. They begin to get rapidly slimmer! First their thighs and then their tummy, leaving the white lab coat that we were all forced to wear looking all baggy and empty in the middle. Very soon, the person has shrunk to such thin proportions that when they roll to the side in the roiling waters, they are only the width of a piece of paper. Pretty much 2D. (In come the Oompa Loompas, who are Clarins’ red all over with a shock of white hair (brand colours, obvs) and they fish the paper-person out and roll her up and carry her off to the de-thinning room, otherwise known as KFC.)
2) We are told to “look, but not touch” the pot of the latest lip-plumping treatment* that is gently bubbling away over a bunsen burner. One daring soul waits until the development team aren’t looking and then DIPS HER FINGER INTO THE POT and rubs it on her lips. The rest of the group watch aghast (scarred as they are by the first mishap) but relax when they see that nothing seems to be happening. A few minutes down the line, as the group listen to a talk on how body creams are formulated, there is a strange, rubbery creaking sound. It’s half like the sound of an old pirate ship moving through the waves and half like the sound of a balloon being squeezed, just before it pops. The group turn around to see that the room behind them has disappeared and been replaced with a pink rubber wall! Suddenly the wall splits through the middle, crossways, and a voice booms out: “I think my lips have started plumping, girls!” (Cue Clarins-branded Oompa Loompas, armed with harpoons and bin bags.)
3) Another member of the group (we’re starting to run short of them now) ignores the warning to keep clear of the little roadway that runs around the factory, the lane that is buzzing with little forklifts that carry around boxes of this and barrels of that. The unfortunate girl collides with a vat of Huile Relax – a new incarnation of the body oil that is so potent, you only need one drop to put you in a really great frame of mind.* So powerful is the oil that the vat has a huge caution sticker on the outside. Not very helpful for the girl who has collided with the forklift, however; the oil spills out and she is covered, from head-to-toe, with Huile Relax (Caution Extra-Extra-Super-Concentré). At first her eyes register shock but then, within seconds, her eyes have drooped and her mouth has fallen open. Her chin drops to her chest, her knees begin to buckle. Willy Wonka wants to catch her but he shies away, not daring to step near to the potent oil. He readjusts his hair net and checks that his shoes are far from the spillage and then, just in time, the Oompa Loompas come to take the girl away. (Wearing haz-suits and eye goggles. The girl sleeps for five weeks and wakes up feeling groggy, but nicely revived.)
These were the little stories that flitted through my mind as I made my way around the tour. In reality, the HQ couldn’t have been further from this fantasy beauty world; it was very well-organised, safe and quiet. It amazed me just how much admin went into the process of creating beauty products; every single raw ingredient has a barcode, every element that goes into every batch of product is minutely weighed, with no margin for error. Things are scanned and beeped and recorded at every single step of the way to make sure that the product that lands on the shelves is absolutely, one hundred percent perfect. It’s quite some operation going on, but despite the size of the place, and the sheer amount of product produced, all of the people we met throughout the factory and the labs were so proud of the brand that they worked for. It was lovely to see. And we did get to go into the development labs and mess about with lipstick formulas – that was my favourite part.
There’s something almost orgasmic about a brand new set of lipsticks sliding out of their setting moulds – the smooth perfection, the unblemished surfaces. I was also introduced to some new and upcoming launches – I’ll pop those posts up in the very near future.
Thank you Clarins for the tour – it was bloody brilliant. Shame I couldn’t keep the rubber lab shoes, but a girl can’t have everything… Just look at how sexy I am with my white coat and goggles!
*please note that these modified products DO NOT exist, they are a figment of my imagination. Though the products I’ve based them on do exist, you can find them all at Escentual.com