Officine Universelle Buly On Preserving Heritage Secrets And Practices

Photo courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly.

Photo courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly.

The founders of fragrance brand talk about artful illustrations and excluding plastic.

The everyday consumer has gravitated toward the slow: brands and products that take the time to inject care into their craft and creations, rather than simply churning out what’s commercially-viable. Values surrounding diversity, cultural inclusivity, and regard for environmental impact are quickly becoming essential considerations for any business, especially within the sphere of fashion and beauty

One such example is Officine Universelle Buly. The brand that has long championed these ethics, having become a pioneer for heritage cosmetics and traditional skincare since its revival in 2014. 

Walk into any Buly store around the world and you’ll find yourself transported to the 19th century. Glass and aluminum bottles boast artful illustrations that harken back to the era’s aesthetics. The store’s packaging mindfully excludes plastic from the mix, not just as a commitment to the time period, but to reducing impact and waste. 

Extensive research goes into the ancestral beauty of Buly. The brand’s book, An Atlas Of Natural Beauty, showcases some of its secrets. Photo courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly.

The original brand was conceived in this era, specifically in 1803, by renowned perfumer Jean-Vincent Bully, who captivated the market with his “Vinaigre de Toilette,” an odor-fighting fragrance during a time when soap and water were scarce. The vinegar-based product quickly became a dresser staple for the many among Paris’ fashionable elite. Bully became both an innovator of his time, as well as a purveyor of tradition. 

The shop, which eventually closed in the next century, was rediscovered by entrepreneurs Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac-Touhami and reopened nearly 10 years ago on Rue Bonaparte in Paris. 

In an exclusive interview with Vogue Philippines, Victoire shared how she and her husband poured over research materials, which included original Buly catalogs from the 1800s and trips to the Paris National Archives. “Ramdane and I found it very interesting that you could buy a rose perfume, but also some rose oil or rose petal powder to create your own products at home,” she tells us of their findings at the time. “This combination of manufactured products and ‘raw’ products like vegetal powders and plant oils are very important at Buly.”

Unlike the floral scents we’re used to, Eau Triple from the new Le Jardins Français L’officine Universelle Buly collection makes use of traditional vegetables. Photo courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly.

A quick look around one of Buly’s shops will indeed reveal a prevalence of natural ingredients like plant oils, rather than the endless list of high-tech chemicals more commonly found. “Ramdane always says ‘If it’s been used for centuries, there is a reason it’s working,’” Victoire testifies. “I do really think everybody needs one or two plant oils in a daily beauty routine.”

It’s this deep interest in ancient beauty practices that fueled the couple’s revival of the brand, which went on to be called “Paris’s New Beauty Hero” by British Vogue upon its opening.

“There is really something about the 19th-century era which is the golden era of French perfume and cosmetics. We thought the names of the products, the original bottles, and catalogs were so charming,” she says. “Buly is very distinct in the cosmetic industry and we wanted to keep our style and voice. Aesthetics is key in our work but also sharing our knowledge about ancestral beauty secrets, traditional rituals, etcetera.”

Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac-Touhami at Buly’s counter. Photo courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly.

With this synchronous mindset, Victoire can hardly recall encountering any challenges before launch. “We had a very clear vision and huge dedication to creating this Buly universe. It was only hard work and long hours. We also were very lucky to have a team with the same understanding and dedication.”

Of these understandings, protecting pieces of heritage remains at the forefront of the brand. Besides skincare, Buly has also managed to cultivate calligraphy throughout its branches worldwide, training over 300 of its staff in the craft. 

In the coming years, the couple dreams of opening a traditional bath with ancient beauty treatments. It’s this path that Victoire and Ramdane hope to continue on: innovating the future, by looking to the past. After all, Victoire says “Rien n’est impossible.” Nothing is impossible. “When you have your own brand you do feel you are moving mountains some days.” 

Vogue Philippines: August 2023 Issue

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