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This summer, La Prairie released The Essence of La Prairie, a video directed by Gilles Esteve expressing the singular vision of the Swiss luxury skincare brand. Told over shots of Switzerland’s incredible landscape of lakes, mountains, and glaciers, alongside images of La Prairie’s pioneering scientific innovations, is a narration by New York-based poet Ladan Osman.
“I retreat to where science meets sanctuary, where time stands still…from the heart of Swiss glaciers, from my core to the stars above…I hold time in my hands, I surrender to the impossible,” Osman speaks, accompanied by the film’s original score.
Osman is Somali-American, and her writing is informed by her background and upbringing. Her work has appeared in many literary publications and she was awarded the Sillerman First Book Prize for her collection The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony in 2014.
“This film is decidedly different from a typical brand film, which was a deliberate choice,” said Greg Prodromides, Chief Marketing Officer of La Prairie. “We are an audacious Brand, one with an intrinsic link to art, so we chose to tell our story in a unique way – one that transcends time, just as our Brand does.”
Whitewall spoke with Osman about lending her words to The Essence of La Prairie, capturing the distillation of time and beauty, and finding power in one’s present.
WHITEWALL: How did the collaboration with La Prairie first come about?
LADAN OSMAN: The director, Gilles Esteve, and the La Prairie team invited me to write in response to his short film based on poems he’d read online. In our first conversation, we had some harmonious ideas on a direction for his gorgeous images, and we shared a deep connection to nature. The whole process flowed.
WW: How did the imagery and the location of the film’s settings influence and inspire your words?
LO: I watched the video a number of times so I could get familiar with this awesome landscape. Its vastness, its freshness, its inarguable beauty inspired every word and the rhythm of the text.
WW: Why did you want to keep the narrator ambiguous, almost universal?
LO: I imagined La Prairie clients reading the text aloud. I wanted them to feel invited to recite it, to feel good about its meaning. In order to do that, the voice had to carry multiple possibilities.
WW: How did you want to convey the passage of time?
LO: I was thinking of time as an inevitable force we understand from our limited and highly subjective perspectives. This was the perfect conceptual atmosphere for mystery, for finding power in one’s present.
WW: With the film, La Prairie set out to break the rules in art. What kind of rules do you like to break in your practice?
LO: I don’t often consider rules when making art. I’m usually trying to release my expectations and anxieties about tradition. I think the main thing is to try, and then trust that people will accept our particularities.
WW: Are beauty and time themes you often address in your work?
LO: I address beauty and time mostly through ordinary objects and memory. I’m so interested in how places and objects become infused with our desires, our need to make a mark. I don’t like the cynicism that uses words like “beauty” and “precious” with a sneer. There’s so much fullness available to us if we make ourselves available to life.
WW: How would you define timeless beauty, personally?
LO: Faithfulness in self and to the thread that connects us to each other, to our universe. This confidence shows up everyday as tenderness and a sense of vastness. For me, that’s part of what makes elders so knowledgeable and alluring.
WW: You’ve described your practice as shaped by your heritage—growing up listening to the way your parents told stories, speaking in metaphors. Would you say your concept of relationship with beauty and time has been shaped by your heritage and parents, as well?
LO: Yes, my cultural and personal heritages have shaped my thinking, my daily rituals, and my style. Aesthetic lineage is real so my parents’ demonstrations of beauty rubbed off in my choices for my own body and home. They also speak regularly about the eternal. This makes it easier to think wide and push forward, to trust in my intentions.