Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis was an ex-veterinarian studying pharmacology when he became fascinated by skincare. ‘People tend to believe that cosmetics are superfluous,’ he says. ‘But cosmetics have an essential role to play in social relations. The skin of your face is the first thing that others see when you establish a personal connection.’ There is an evolutionary aspect, too – our initial impressions can attract us to a healthy person as a potential mate, or warn us away from an unhealthy one as a possible carrier of disease.
As France gradually reopened after the Covid-19 lockdown this spring, Mauvais-Jarvis, now Dior International’s environmental and scientific communications director, took Wallpaper* on a tour of Hélios, the state-of-the-art centre where LVMH, Dior’s parent company, conducts research, creates, and innovates around perfumes and cosmetics for some 14 different brands. Dior is the luxury group’s biggest beauty brand, and represents a whopping 70 per cent of the centre’s activity.
Inaugurated in 2013 in St-Jean-de-Braye, near Orléans, Hélios is part of Cosmetic Valley, one of France’s so-called ‘competitiveness clusters’ (bringing together businesses, research centres, suppliers and more working in the same sector). Nestled in a grassy site surrounded by trees, the building is located on a 55-hectare production site for Parfums Christian Dior. The French architectural firm Arte Charpentier designed the 18,000 sq m structure as a three-storey equilateral triangle around a central atrium. True to its name, the nearly all-white building is filled with natural light, which enters through a roof made of semi-transparent ETFE (fluorine-based plastic) cushions that modulate the internal temperature. Soft edges and a façade of white screen-printed glass help the building to merge into the landscape.
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