Officine Universelle Buly – “All that is passed, and passing, and to come”

Officine Universelle Buly 1803 is one of the most iconic perfumes and cosmetics brands and remains a symbol of the art-de-vivre to this day. The brand perfectly reflects what it means to be a Bar à parfums, a real temple of fragrancies. Bar à parfums originated from the idea of bar à champagne, in which champagnes can be tried and tasted. In the same way, Bar à parfums allow people to try out different fragrancies to create a tailor-made perfume. However, besides perfumes, Office Universelle Buly 1803 offers natural beauty treatments and accessories.

“To paraphrase Victor Hugo, let the key of the past open the door to the future. All that is passed, and passing, and to come; this is the History of Buly.” is written on the official site. This is the philosophy of the brand which throughout the years they have remained faithful and respectful to, while being innovative.

The brand as we know it today was relaunched in 2014 by Victoire De Taillac and Ramdane Touhami. They had the idea partially from reading Balzac’s novel ‘César Birotteau’, which was inspired by a late 18th-century perfumer named Jean-Vincent Bully. Bully opened his store in 1803 in Paris and its reputation went far beyond France, quickly circulating throughout all Europe. In the 19th century in Paris there were more than 139 perfumeries — to cope with the competition, Bully developed inventive formulas; among them, his most famous: a ‘vinegar with a thousand virtues’.

Vinegar had been used for a very long time mixed with honey and water to fight infections and some diseases. In the 18th century, for example, the ‘Four Thieves Vinegar’ was considered the best protection against the plague. Then, in the 19th century, thanks to Buly, vinegar was turned into a toiletry product by infusing it with citrus, spices, or flowers. His most famous product is ‘Vinaigre aromatique et antiméphitique’ (aromatic and antimephitic vinegar); this formula was patented in 1809 and 1814. From this moment Buly became one of most famous perfumers and cosmetologists and his products the most sought-after in France and beyond. When De Taillac and Touhami opened the first store in Paris, they combined history, tradition, and innovation, making the products available and famous to the whole world. Buly’s products today are still made in France with old methods and original ingredients.

Their iconic Parisian store is situated in 6 rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement, and it encompasses the history and tradition of the brand as well as of other cultures. The store still has wooden display units made in the 18th century style, floor tiles from Etruscan kilns and marble tabletops. Touhami said: “When you come here, you need time, because it’s a trip.” Indeed, personalized service makes up a large part of the Buly experience, with offers including hand-written calligraphy personalization, and special wrapping services.

Now, the brand has 14 stores around the world: Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Kyoto, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and Osaka. Each store is a manifesto against the status quo and instead, a unique blend between the local background and the spirit of French pharmacies of the 19th century. The bestsellers of the brand are the water-based scents, scented body oils, hand creams and lip balms.

Two years ago, Buly started a collaboration with the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre. This collaboration was a historical first: eight leading perfumers from various fragrance houses (Givaudan, IFF, Robertet and Symrise) were selected to choose a work of art each to illustrate through smell. Amongst the 35,000 artworks in the museum, five paintings and three marbles sculpture were chosen: Grande Odalisque and The Valpinçon Bather by Ingres, The Lock by Fragonard, Conversation in a Park by Gainsborough, Saint Joseph the Carpenter by de La Tour, The Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Nymph with the Scorpion by Bartolini. The challenge Buly took upon was to “bring alive a masterpiece and create its perfume”. They have succeeded in doing so with eight Eau Triples, alcohol free perfumes, scented soap, and scented postcards. The collaboration was supposed to last one year and to cease production of the products after that, however, it has been so successful that the products are still available.

On October 5th 2021, the leader in luxury, LVMH announced the addition of Officine Universelle Buly 1803 to its portfolio. “Buly perfectly matches the philosophy that we find in the maisons of the LVMH group, combining an unparalleled heritage, craftsmanship and a unique experience in exceptional boutiques,” Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, said in a statement. This isn’t the first time the two companies work together: LVMH has supported Buly for almost 4 years through the Luxury Ventures minority investment fund.

With the acquisition by LVMH, the brand has lots afoot. First, De Taillac will remain Buly’s director of product strategy, image, and communication, while Touhami is to keep focusing on the brand’s stores and products through his design agency. He will, however, step down from the CEO role. Furthermore, Buly is opening two new stores — in Milan and Munich — come November and many more are on the way. Also, new products are about to join their product line: bath salts, further scents linked to the Louvre, and even a perfume for sneakers.

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