By  on June 9, 2006

PARIS — Weleda France is showing its colors.

Responding to increasing competition in natural cosmetics in France, the Arlesheim, Switzerland-based skin care brand unveiled its first freestanding store anywhere, in Paris, last week. It features an eye-catching rainbow of stripes around its doorway.

The linear exterior design of the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt boutique is intended to contrast with the rounded, softer harmonious shapes inside. Architect Maryam Ashford-Brown created the 3,230-square-foot store to be a haven of nature in the heart of Paris, with plants, oak wood and walls of Breton granite.

Sales spiked 50 percent last year, to 38 million euros, or $49 million at current exchange, as consumers increasingly turn to natural and organic products. Weleda France, a fully owned subsidiary of Weleda AG, also has found that sector increasingly crowded. "Our competitors are being active, and new organic brands are springing up," said Sarah Dierdorf, manager of Espace Weleda. "We thought as it's been 80 years since we've been in France, and since we've been faithful to this [natural] philosophy, it's unfair if others take away our market share, simply because we're less visible."

Weleda spent 700,000 euros, or $901,430, of its 2.5 million euros, or $3.2 million, global communication budget to create the store. Its purpose is primarily that of a showroom, to communicate the brand's image.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted with a vertical garden, designed by Patrick Blanc, with a water fountain at its base. Adjacent, giant-sized tumblers, like those used in Weleda's laboratories, display the plant essences upon which its skin care products are based.

The opposite wall features the brand's 90 stockkeeping units. Each collection is lit by lamps decorated with a drawing of their main plant ingredients, either an iris, a rose, arnica or calendula, by Greek artist Ianna Andréadis.

A sliding glass door, embellished with a pattern of iris flowers by Japanese stylist Shu Moriyama to evoke a field when it is moved, separates the boutique from a space for facial treatments. Two adjacent spacious treatment rooms, in wood with adjustable color lighting and wooden beds, are for body massages. Treatments range from 26 euros, or $33, for a 20-minute hand massage to 120 euros, or $155, for a one-hour, 45-minute full-body "harmony" and face massage.

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