In the heart of Los Angeles lies a seven-acre oasis known as Flamingo Estate.
Flamingo Estate, the brainchild of Richard Christiansen, is a modern take on an apothecary-meets-sanctuary. Nestled in the foothills of the City of Angels, Flamingo Estate began in March 2020 during the initial upheaval of Covid-19, when all industries were reeling from its sudden shock. But what started as a passion project soon blossomed into something much more. Today, Flamingo Estate works with a collective of farmers, horticulturists and herbalists to develop a 150-product portfolio. It sells products including soap, wine, candles and condiments for the bath, garden, home and kitchen.
Christiansen is also the founder of the creative agency Chandelier Creative, which he formed 16-years ago. It has since grown to have 60 employees across three offices in Los Angeles, New York City and Paris. The Australian native grew up on a honey farm but always dreamed of working in luxury goods.
“I used to say to everyone at the office that our job was to fight for fantasy, because the real world is so boring,” said Christiansen on the latest episode of the Glossy Beauty podcast.
The formation of Flamingo Estate was ultimately a confluence of coincidence, opportunity and the ineffable desire for the paradisiacal. Christiansen, whose hobby was beekeeping while living in New York, gifted people honey while on a photoshoot in Los Angeles, and one recipient asked for a favor: The favor was to place some bees in a seven-acre garden in the city, owned by an eccentric older man. When Christiansen first arrived, the man wore a leopard-print G-string and a red silk bathrobe. Eventually, Christiansen took over the Grey Gardens-esque property and turned it into a modern version of the Garden of Allah.
“I put some bees in, and I saw this garden — this amazing garden. And I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is my dream.’ It was all rundown and overgrown,” he said. “A couple of years went by before I purchased the house.”
Christiansen spoke with Glossy about the origin of Flamingo Estate, his philosophy around brand building and the lifestyle brand’s next steps. Below are excerpts from the conversation, which has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How he acquired the property
“I met [the estate owner], and for years, I would come and see him. One day I said, ‘You’re in your 90s, and you’re too old to even climb up the hill. You should sell this house to someone who would restore it.’ And he asked me if I would. I [told him], ‘I hate Los Angeles, and I don’t know how to drive. I can’t afford it. I have a business. I have a payroll.’ I sort of gave him a [sales] number as a joke. And he said, ‘OK, if you promised to restore it and not sell it, I’ll sell it to you for that much. But you have to promise not to see inside of the house before you buy it.’ I had never seen inside the house. I’d only come to visit the garden. I thought there must be some amazing art or an old Rolex in a drawer and was so excited. What I found were hundreds and thousands of porn films. The house had been a porn studio from the 1950s through the early 1980s. There was an editing room and a cinema, mirrors on the ceilings, and a room of sex toys.”
Developing the branding and aesthetic
“The No. 1 thing that I craved was abundance, this idea of everything. The garden is like that if you think about a garden as your guide. If we were ever to photograph oranges, it wouldn’t be two oranges on a white background. It would be 10,000 oranges in a fountain. In many ways, we were resisting against a Kinfolk-y, quiet and organized neat world. It was important that we honor all these [vegetal] ingredients and farmers with that degree of visual care that we would have given Cartier or Hermès, when [the agency was] working with them.”
On wholesale expansion
“We’ve entered into a wholesale agreement with Mecca in Australia. They also believe that pleasure is a priority, and they like this idea of reinventing a modern apothecary. I went to see the team earlier in 2021. I will never forget this conversation, because the team said they would give Flamingo Estate a wall in 150 stores. And put us next to Byredo. I said, ‘You know we’re not a beauty brand, right?’ And they said, ‘No, you are a beauty brand because beauty is about getting good sleep and drinking water and eating good food and getting good rest.’ We just started making a much broader assortment of products [organized] under different needs, like sleep, calm, sex, that sort of stuff, and building products around that. We are now a grown-up business and entering our first proper expansion outside our backyard. This is going to be an exciting year for us.”