Guerlain’s updated Orchidée Impériale.

Orchidée Impériale is being updated with new orchid extracts to reflect what the brand calls cutting-edge technology for a January relaunch.

Orchidée Impériale, Guerlain’s powerhouse antiaging cream, is getting a new lease on life: Its formula is being updated with new orchid extracts to reflect what the brand calls cutting-edge technology for a January relaunch.

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


The new technology is intended to slow down the rate at which cells enter senescence, an irreversible stage which results in the end of activity for many basic cell functions, said Dr. Frédéric Bonté, research director for Guerlain.

While the original Orchidée Impériale focused on orchid roots, the newest technology — the proprietary Imperial Orchid Molecular Extract, which involves three new species of orchids, including Vanda coerulea, a strain native to China — includes growth factors discovered in the plants’ stems and leaves in addition to those found in the roots.

“This complex revives the cell cycle regulation system, which is controlled by cyclins, which are specific proteins that regulate the biological clock of a cell,” said Bonté. “This new complex stimulates the longevity gene, which is responsible for the synthesis of an anti-inflammatory protein; combats the effects of cutaneous immunosenescence, preserves the original cell membrane composition, reinforces DNA protection and controls the overproduction of melanin and targets the mechanisms that lead to the end of cell activity by slowing down the number of cells entering senescence and maintaining the amount of younger and active cells.”

The proprietary technology was developed in-house by Guerlain scientists.

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“Guerlain has Orchidariums in three areas of the globe, which helps us to understand the life of the orchid in its entirety,” said Bonté. “The Agrobiology Center, located in Geneva, Switzerland, has an Experimental Garden which serves as a protected environment in which orchids are sheltered and studied; the Phytochemistry Center, located in Strasbourg, France, where the biological properties of orchids are studied and recorded, and the Biodiversity Centre, a nature reserve in Yunnan, China, where Guerlain identifies, observes and cultivates orchids in their natural biotope.”

The purpose of these three Orchidariums, said Bonté, is to allow Guerlain to identify and select the orchids with the highest potential for rich active ingredients, study the selected orchids’ molecules effects on cellular longevity, and understand, study and detect new biological activities.

“Because we control the plants at all levels — from identification to production to extraction — we can control the ingredients from the plant stage to the jar,” said Bonté.

The updated Orchidée Impériale will retail for $410 for 1.7 oz., and will be sold in about 100 doors, including selected Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman doors, said Linda Maiocco, senior vice president of marketing for Guerlain in the U.S. Its target market is women ages 45 plus, said Maiocco.

While executives declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated Orchidée Impériale would do about $5 million at retail in the U.S. in its first year on counter.

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