Freiss is short for Freissinieres, a tiny community of about 160 residents based in the Hautes alpes at 1200m. The company is named after this tiny community in the alps where the Vaudois had settled in the 13th century after leaving Lyon.
This community were dedicated to living a humble life and were accused of heresy by the catholic church. Their reforms had included eschewing the wealth of the church and living frugally, and translating the bible into the local language. Women were empowered and the community was highly literate because their bible was accessible. They were persecuted and murdered by the armies of the church especially in the neighbouring valley of Vallouise. In freissinieres many escaped south after wintering in Dormillouse – a high village with no road access, and found a new future in the Luberon. The valley’s people continued to be non conformist, a little rebellious and today many are protestant or atheist.
Today Freissinieres is still rebellious in a small way. Its 160 citizens elect their local municipality. The valley is an oasis of calm in which social capital is freely and readily available. Unusually the village has been welcoming of outsiders, although this can bring its own difficulties with too many houses lying empty.
For many people whether residents or visitors Freissinieres offers some clues about what a more relationship based and sustainable society might look like. But there is still much to do. The community is now heavily dependant on the economy outside the valley, not enough has been done to increase economic resilience and support local jobs. Too many cars drive through without spending any money and the environmental capital is not sufficiently valorised though the air is pure and the environment relatively unspoilt. You can see more at http://www.freissinieres.fr/