Olivier Baussan, a true lover of Provence

The founder of L'Occitane en Provence is a very different man... At times close to the image that it portrayed of him, he can also surprise with a truly modern outlook. Meeting.
By Caroline Taret and Mélissa Darré

A devotee of the nature of Provence

Meeting Olivier Baussan when you love the region is something of an event in itself. This charming gentleman is one of the key figures who embody the Provence of today, as Marcel Pagnol and Paul Ricard did in their day.

A native of Provence since childhood, Olivier Baussan studied in Aix-en-Provence and is passionate about literature. He has a love for words that he cultivates, even today, through readings ranging from the Âmes Fortes by Jean Giono to 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

A character that cannot be pigeon-holed, at the end of the 1970s he discovered the art of distillation and embarked on the production of essential oils and handmade soaps. His intuition is also irrevocable proof for this lover of Provence: he distils plants so that he can breathe in the scents of his childhood.

Olivier Baussan
© L'Occitane en Provence

A precursor of natural cosmetics

Whether using rosemary, juniper, lavender or an olive tree, Olivier Baussan turns powerful nectars into cosmetic virtues. And so the idea was born to create L'Occitane, created in 1976 and inspired by the region he loved, and which would, over time, become an international brand. Even if he is no longer the owner of the company, as its founder he continues to breathe creative life into the venture through various consulting projects.

"At the beginning of L'Occitane, I sympathised with the small producers. People respected me and trusted me despite my youth and the uncertainties about my initiatives. I used the same language, had the same outlook towards nature and didn’t use clichéd words. I hate clichés!” he admits.

He adheres to a philosophy that he has been putting into practice since the late 1980s: he moved to Burkina Faso to discover shea and put in place a co-development structure with the women there, who were the only ones allowed to collect these nuts. Whether unconsciously deliberate or straight from the heart, his favourite product, made from this beloved ingredient, is the brand's bestseller: shea butter hand cream!

Olivier Baussan au Burkina Faso
© L'Occitane en Provence

A face of modern Provence

When the question of architecture reared its head, the founder of L'Occitane showed great enthusiasm for the work of the architect Tadao Ando in the area of the Château La Coste at Puy Sainte-Réparade. Baussan would rather live in a building designed by the modernist Mies van der Rohe than a listed building in the village of Forcalquier.

He prefers hunting around looking for vintage pieces at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to looking at contemporary creations. He hates the Provence of clichés, believing that there is more to see, and he encourages the world to take its time, just like the moments he spends on his boat in the Port of Bonifacio composing haikus* for his city-dwelling friends in the same way other people write tweets.

It's when you take your time that the best things happen: "And when you make yourself available, things come to us and I love spending time discovering. When you pull upon a thread of a discovery with all the delicacy that this implies, it is pure pleasure. Everything comes gently when you respect it". Olivier Baussan isn’t just talking about Provence, he is also talking about love...

Olivier Baussan with l'Immortelle
© L'Occitane en Provence

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