For 20 years, Richard Christiansen ran his own creative agency, Chandelier Creative, in New York where he worked with some the world’s most iconic fashion and commercial retail brands, models and photographers. We’re talking about really big names: Hermès, Givenchy, Kylie Manogue, Calvin Klein, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. What Christiansen didn’t know was he was, in his words, “exhausted, tired and running ragged”.
It all came to a grinding halt when Covid-19 hit and the business fell apart. “You know, really my whole identity and self-worth, everything was tied to the success of that business … it was a bit of a nightmare,” Christiansen admits to Broadsheet.
But that also gave the 45-year-old time to enjoy his Los Angeles residence, Flamingo Estate, which he describes as a “hedonistic, creative, very sensual sanctuary”. Time gave him a moment to reflect on what he actually wanted to do. “I get a little sheepish because it was a hard time for so many people, but it became one of the most wonderful times for me.”
The glorious three-hectare estate lies atop the hills of Los Angeles. He bought it in 2013 but it’s had a colourful history. Between the 1950s and ’80s it was used to shoot erotic films, and was also treated as an enclave of hedonism and psychedelic remedies.
Today, the property is where Christiansen, who grew up on a farm in the northern New South Wales town of Duranbah, gets to flex his green thumb – the lush estate is now home to more than 150 species of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Christiansen painstakingly renovated and renewed the garden and the beautiful pink villa – which quite frankly is equally striking and fabulous, and the catalyst for his next successful chapter.
The moniker of Christiansen’s home is now the label of his home, body and produce label that prides itself on being socially and environmentally responsible. It’s attracted a cult following that includes some of Hollywood’s biggest stars: Oprah, Chrissy Teigen and Martha Stewart to name a few. (When Oprah added Flamingo Estate candles to her fave things list of 2021, the flurry of sales caused his website to almost crash.)
Flamingo Estate, according to Christiansen, was born “fortuitously and accidentally” to initially help local farmers, who had been impacted by restaurant closures due to the pandemic, by selling their produce. Two-and-a-bit years later and the company sells more than 150 products, and it has now launched in Australia and New Zealand in partnership with beauty giant Mecca.
Making up the initial range are three collections – Garden Essentials, Euphoria and Clarity Collection – consisting of herbaceous products for the home and body. There’s the Garden Essentials tomato candle that smells exactly like an heirloom tomato plucked from the vine. Earthy and savoury – it’s like no candle you’ve smelt before.
The lavender and eucalyptus-infused hand soap and body wash is equally as defined, and the Euphoria body scrub with bergamot and pink peppercorn is energising. Each ingredient that is bottled is sourced from farmers that Christiansen knows personally. “I know the exact tree [that] an ingredient came from, and to do that at scale [is] something very special,” he tells us.
Christiansen says he’s made it his mission to ensure all the products are handmade, plant-based, use recyclable aluminium packaging and biodegradable formulates, and are palm-oil free. He came to that conclusion after realising the bath and shower water he was reusing to water his garden was killing his plants.
“When I finally understood what was in a bottle of body wash, I was like, ‘Oh my god, why would I put it on my skin if I can’t put it on my plants?’ So we started making our own soap bars and then all of a sudden people started buying it.”
Flamingo Estate is available exclusively at select Mecca stores and online in Australia and New Zealand.