Thanks to Skype, I let Carole Garcia of Graine de Pastel enlighten me on the history, qualities and virtues of Pastel before my departure for Europe.
I continued the conversation with Carole and her partner Nathalie Juin at their Toulouse HQ above the first free standing Graine de Pastel store on Place St Etienne, a charming cobblestone covered locale a block off Rue de Metz.
Here is the result of both conversations.
Q: Carole, what was the genesis of Graine de Pastel idea?
We started with the idea of creating a company with regional roots, steeped in occitan culture and language and linked to pastel's historic heritage. Landmarks of Toulouse architecture like Hotel d'Asezat which now hosts Musee Bamberg were built thanks to wealth created in 16th century by the trading of Pastel, the pigment as a tinting agent for fabrics.
Q: Was there a person you would credit as getting you going on this idea?
Carole's mother sent her a newspaper article in La Depeche du Midi that mentioned thesis written on medicinal and healing virtues of Pastel and it piqued her curiosity while we were both working in pharmaceutical industry?
Q: How did you take the idea of Pastel as health-beauty product a step further?
Nathalie did the research on Pastel's virtues, attributes. All in all it was a 10 year process, including 2 years of planning and 18 months of gestation. Tests were made on cosmetic and dermatologic values as well as bacteriologic issues. Our creations needed a 1 year shelf life to make sure that the attributes stayed what they were.
Q: Once all the legwork was done and product Graine de Pastel line was ready for market, did you start selling online first?
From the outset, we sold Graine de Pastel both in stores (Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche, specialized shops, Harrods in the UK) and online.
Q: Is your line organic?
Our fragrances do not qualify as organic (what is called 'bio' in France) yet we adopted from the start natural practices. We do not use animals for our testing.
Q: Where do source your pastel from?
We get it from local Coop of growers near Pamiers in Ariege.
Q: When was your free standing store opened?
Graine de Pastel shop on Place St Etienne opened its doors in April 2012. We also have a small Beauty Institute upstairs offereing facial and body skincare as well as massages with pebbles from Garonne river and with Shells of Cocagne, all these by appointment only, Monday through Saturday.
Q: Outside Europe where is Graine de Pastel most sold?
Saudi Arabla, Japan, Canada and the USA.
Q: As we are now in the Christmas and New Year gift giving season, who are main recipients of your line as gifts?
First women, then friends and family who live abroad, third as business gifts, Graine de Pastel was one of the gifts featured aboard Airbus inaugural flight of A380.
Q: Name your most popular items?
Right now it would be Baume de Cocagne (Face and Body Butter) and Creme de Cocagne (Face and Body Cream).
Q: To conclude, describe Graine de Pastel in 3 words?
Natural, green, affordable.
Our soaps start at 5 euros. We take terroir approach to personal care products.
Pleased to meet you Carole and Nathalie.