Cristal Spa: Hello Alexandre, first of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Alexandre Flueckiger (AF): Hello! I grew up in Montreux in Switzerland, where nature has always had an important place in my life. From childhood, I used to go with my father and my grandmother to pick mushrooms. I quickly developed a passion for modest botany and realized how much it was a source of education; plants have so much to teach us... I have the feeling that in the past it was possible to do many different things without becoming attached to a defined profession. Today, we focus more on what we know how to do in order to do it best. This is why I do my job and why I am passionate!
Cristal Spa: The name "Alpeor" comes from "gold from the Alps" in reference to the Flore-Alpe garden in Champex-Lac, is that right?
AF: Absolutely! Alpeor is quite a simple name, it is the gold of the Alps, it is transparent, like the brand and the composition of our treatments.
Cristal Spa: To bounce back on your origins, does the Mirabeau Clinic in Montreux, where your grandmother and your aunt worked and who finally passed on the passion for well-being to you, does it still exist?
AF: So unfortunately, this Clinic, which was a wooden chalet, was destroyed! Many of these wooden clinics and hotels have suffered the same fate. It's a shame, I would have liked it to be still there because we could have set up our offices there, knowing that the Jardin de Champex is located about 50km from this clinic, so it's not very far!
Cristal Spa: Indeed, sad news! In your premises, who takes care of collecting the plants necessary for the preparation of your products?
AF: The plants are not picked directly from the Garden to preserve it and not damage the flora and fauna. We have plantations, a dozen gardeners guided by Andrée Fauchère, a botanist and author who has passed on a lot of her knowledge to us. She is really a beautiful person who enjoys sharing and discussing with us, we learn a lot by her side.
Cristal Spa: And regarding product development, can you tell us how long does it take?
AF: You should know that the development of a cosmetic product never takes less than 24 months. For example, we have worked for 6 years on our reference La Crème Précieuse des Montagnes! It is a very long and laborious process that allowed us to create a rich and nourishing cream with a light and non-oily texture. It sounds silly, but it's something complicated! People often underestimate cosmetics when months of research are needed and many scientists are working on formulas. Standards, more and more important for consumers nowadays, are also a new constraint to be taken into account. Finally, you also need a visionary side because a lot of products are released and you have to know how to adapt.
Cristal Spa: You told us about the teams present around the Jardin de Champex, do you work there?
AF: I move around a lot, our offices are located in Gland, not far from Nyon in the canton of Vaud next to Lake Geneva. The pickers are near the Garden in the Valais and the factory as well. Our products are therefore 100% Made in Switzerland.
Cristal Spa: Is the fact of being distributed in hotels a choice on your part? Never wanted to open your own spas?
AF: We are not spa operators. That is to say that they are really two different jobs and that we already have a lot to do with the development of skincare. I'm not saying it'll never happen but right now that's how it works. We prefer to focus on what we know how to know, to develop good cosmetic products based on plant ingredients so that they are of the best quality possible. However, we are trying to develop the aspect of the hotel experience, with spa and hospitality products that can be found elsewhere in certain hotels in your group* and also the events that it is possible to organize within partner hotels. The goal is to develop the offer already present and to be close to our customers rather than creating one.
Cristal Spa: We fully understand your approach. The "human scale" aspect of your brand is precisely a point that appealed to us a lot. You, who are the founder, what is your role within the company? What would a typical day be like with you?
AF: Do you want the truth? Well I take care of a lot of different things (maybe too much)! No more seriously, I am focusing on the development strategy, formulas and products that we will make over the next 5 to 10 years. I also manage the commercial strategy with customer relations, distributors and export. There is a bit of communication too because like it or not, and whether or not you are familiar with the Internet, today it is essential. I am also developing the human resources team and I train people who come to Alpeor to pass on my knowledge and my passion. Unfortunately, my tasks are moving further and further away from botany itself. My dream would be to be alone in the garden looking after the rhodolias quietly (laughs)!
Cristal Spa: The last word?
AF: Well, we are currently working on new packaging for the brand! To be continued then.
Cristal Spa: Thank you very much for this moment of sharing and see you soon!
*Editor's note: Au Coeur du Village ***** in La Clusaz, Impérial Palace and Le Pélican in Annecy.