Meet Stephan Francisci

Immortelle essential oil Producer Prunelli di fiumorbo, Haute-Corse, France

THE MAN BEHIND IMMORTELLE'S MAGIC

A collaborative partnership

Meet Stephan Francisci, a Corsican producer and distiller who has worked with us for more than 15 years and was the first person to cultivate the, previously completely wild, immortelle flower. We launched our organic large-scale immortelle plantation programme with him in 2004, securing the supplies he needed to start him off – and our partnership has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Let us tell you about how he grows the everlasting immortelle crop – which covers his sunshine-soaked Corsican fields in a sea of yellow – using eco-friendly farming methods that reproduce conditions usually found in the wild.

Stephan Francisci - Immortelle Producer

STEPHAN'S STORY

Stephan lives in his native region of Prunelli-di-Fiumorbo on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. He works the land on his estate, Domaine Amuredda, concentrating much of his time and effort into cultivating a native variety of the everlasting immortelle flower. For him, working the land has been a childhood dream, he says: 

I was born in Corsica and I always dreamt of working the land. I arrived in south Corsica when I was 8 and never left. As my family was not from farming stock, I had no land and it took me 20 years to achieve my dream. I first bought a building plot with the intent of having a house built but, instead, I used the place to set up a farm!


These small golden flowers possess powerful antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Stephan harvested his first crop in 2014, manually as he didn’t have any machines at the time. These days he carefully and sustainably grows, harvests and distills the immortelle flowers, resulting in the 100% organic immortelle essential oil used in L’Occitane’s skincare range. He says:

Today I am in complete control of the whole process, from growing to distilling. Extracting essential oil is something I was unfamiliar with before I started working with L’Occitane, and it was life changing.”  

STAYING CLOSE TO NATURE

The process is always kept as natural as possible. As Stephan says,

“I grow immortelle flowers using plants born in the wild: we try to copy the natural environment and conditions found in the wild Corsican scrubland. We don’t use genetic modifications or the selective method used in intensive farming. We work with wild seeds and not cloned ones. We get an oil quality as close as possible to the one you would get in the wild."


Through this method, the quantities vary from crop to crop. The plants are all different, so Stephan produces less but explains that the quality ends up being exceptional.

ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY FARMING

To reproduce the conditions of the wild, Stephan tells us that he avoids using fertilisers, pesticides or water while growing his crops. This is the secret, he explains, to enhancing the strength of the flower.

"We obtain a top-of-the-range essential oil and I work every day to acquire the best possible quality," Stephan says.


His eco-friendly farming methods also mean our products are 100% organic and their source – the immortelle plant – is grown sustainably.

PREMIUM-QUALITY ESSENTIAL OILS

We create natural products by using organic farming, traceable methods and local producers. For example, Stephan is responsible for the exclusive immortelle essential oil in our Limited Edition Divine Grand Cru Cream. He grows one parcel of immortelle under very specific conditions, with trees growing above the flowers to recreate the diverse ecosystem they are used to in the wild. He harvests and distills this crop on the summer solstice, all within the space of two hours.

Stephan says it best:

"The thing that makes this essential oil so precious and unique is our Corsican 'terroir'. When a plant is suited to the land it grows on, it gives its very best."

A CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY

Our eco-friendly farming methods allow us to keep growing and harvesting the miracle immortelle flower for its anti-aging properties without negatively affecting the volume or biodiversity of the wild crop. They’re also vital for preserving the plant’s natural habitat.

L’Occitane’s local networks are small enough to give workers total autonomy over their business while making sure we have complete control over the traceability of our skincare products, from our seeds to your skin.

Farming for the future

The sustainable agriculture methods benefit not only the rich floral landscape of Corsica but also the family farmers who work in the aromatic fields full of Immortelle. Family farmers own their own land and production facilities. They are passionate about what they do and want to be able to sustainably and independently manage their land. These people look to the future and want to pass their knowledge, skills and the land itself down to the next generation. As Stephan says:

"It took me a long time to make a living from farming. You must always put money back in and invest to survive. But today I don’t need another job – we are happy as we are and I’ve realised my dream.”

TREADING NEW GROUND

Over the years, Stephan’s farm has evolved and diversified. Cultivating immortelle is still the main focus, but today Stephan grows 13 other aromatic plants alongside it. Some of these crops are native to Corsica while others, like lavender, he has introduced from further afield

Maryna, Stephan’s wife, uses some of these plants to make natural cosmetics to sell in their farm shop. Stephan and Maryna also welcome visitors to Domaine Amuredda every year – they demonstrate their distillation methods and explain the benefits of aromatherapy to these guests.

Products inspired by the Immortelle flower

Get to know our Corsican Immortelle producers

Stephan Francisci

"I was the first to grow immortelle in Corsica - although it is a universe I did not know. These are trades that are primarily passion before being remunerative. And then one day, without realizing it, you get to live it! There are people who never realize their dream and I am proud to have achieved mine"

Pascale Chérubin

"Life is made of opportunities and it is them who guide us! Thanks to these circumstances, today I cultivate 7 hectares of immortelle flowers. This size of farm suits the balance my family life. Even if I do not work on my crops every day, my family and I live in the heart of our fields. The immortal flower pulses our life and live with it every day."

Catherine Sanci

"I had to get know the plant and had to start from the beginning. They were very difficult years, and I learned everything on the field. My father always told me: if you do it, do it at your best. The immortelle has do it at your best. The immortelle has opened the doors of distillation and it is thanks to this flower that I am passionate about my job."

FAQ

In short, how would you summarise L’OCCITANE "Supporting producers" commiment? 
  • L’OCCITANE is the child of shared values and experience: Olivier Baussan created the brand after buying an old still from a producer who taught him the art of distilling plants. This is why sharing experiences with our producers and exchanging know-how has always been a core value.
  • We know our producers personally, and we admire the passion they put into their work so they can offer us the very best ingredients. We love to hear the stories they share and we want to give them the support they need so that they – and future generations – can continue even after we’ve gone.
  • We support family farms so that they can grow in a sustainable and lasting manner. This includes signing non-exclusive contracts to allow our producers to keep their independence (so they can diversify) and providing technical support.
  • Dialogue, respect and transparency lie at the heart of our daily work with our producers. These elements are key to building a long-term relationship of trust. Some of our partnership have lasted for over 30 years!

 

How does L'OCCITANE help local growers? 
  • We support family farms so they can develop in a sustainable and lasting manner. This includes offering a fair price and signing non-exclusive contracts that allow our producers to keep their independence (so they can also diversify).
  • We also establish multi-year contracts, if possible, to ensure our producers have a lasting outlet for their produce. If necessary, we provide down payments up to 80 % on orders before the harvest, and we ensure that the value is distributed fairly amongst those involved (for shea butter in particular).
  • We invest time and money to improve our producers' working conditions by providing technical and administrative support, bringing producers together as a community to share ideas and good practices, and creating a fund to support them in times of need.

 

Can you give a concrete example of how L'OCCITANE works with producers? 
We have a very close relationship with our producers. In fact, we've been working with some of them for over 30 years! We spend time with our producers on site, from flowering to harvesting in order to best understand their difficulties and help them.
  • For one of our iconic ingredients, Immortelle, we initiated the creation of a new, 100% organic supply chain. We worked with technicians specialized in aromatic and medicinal plants, as well as Corsican producers, to launch the first large-scale organic immortelle plantation programme. About a dozen partners are now involved in our supply chain, with contracts covering a 5-7 year period, enabling them to continue their activity over the long term. We spend 2 weeks with them at harvest time to help and to test new production techniques (for distillation for example).



What is ‘family farming’ and why is L’OCCITANE promoting it ?
The term is generically used when farmers own their own production tools. Beyond that, L’OCCITANE is interested more specifically in working with families with a long and deep attachment to their land, who manage it in a sustainable way and who are working on preserving their know-how.