LA Exclusive: Buly’s Co-Founder Talks About the Luxury Skincare Brand’s Centuries-Old Roots as They Open Their First Boutique in Makati - Lifestyle Asia

Officine Universelle Buly’s first Philippine shop is at Greenbelt’s new luxury wing.

French skincare and perfumery brand Officine Universelle Buly opened its first boutique in Paris in 1803. First founded by Jean-Vincent Bully, he made his fortune with his Vinegar de Toilette product using natural ingredients.

Since then, the brand has expanded to London and multiple cities in Asia with 28 stores and counting. Last December 1, Manila was added to the growing list when it opened its doors in the luxury wing of Makati’s Greenbelt 3. 

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On his recent trip to Paris, Lifestyle Asia EIC Dong Ronquillo spoke with Buly’s co-founder and communication and special projects director Victoire de Taillac-Touhami. In Buly’s Rue Saintonge boutique, the only store with a cafe and skincare treatment center, she talks about merging “excellence of the past” and “best of the future” since buying the company in 2013.

Inspired by culture 

On the decision to open in Manila, Touhami says it’s all because of Mark “Jappy” Gonzalez. Known for his expertise in innovating the luxury retail landscape of the Philippines through founding H&F Retail Concepts—Touhami says she’s never been to Manila. Still, Gonzalez’s strong understanding of Buly convinced them.

In fact, Buly Manila is one of their only global stores managed with a partner. “In the Philippines, it’s a partnership with Mark—a stand-alone store inside the mall. Also, we designed all the stores, and after we’ve been [collaborating], it’s notable that Mark’s been coming to the Buly stores as a customer really since the beginning,” she shares. “So we have a very good relationship with him, so that’s great.”

With every store design never being identical to another, it’s a way to merge the country’s “cultural style” instead of adapting to its market as a strategy. Touhami cites examples like in London, their boutique’s inspired by a Victorian style, while in Kyoto, it’s reminiscent of a traditional Japanese costume store, “so you have this kind of contrast.”

“For us, it’s important that people understand that Bully is not about the past. We are also very creative in our ways of thinking,” she continues. “So I think in our Japanese stores, you get a sense of what we do in terms of aesthetics.”

The co-founder describes their Manila store as a luxurious apothecary-style environment with rich shades of green with traditional molding.

Merging the old and modern 

As the brand was initially founded centuries ago, Touhami and her team work with historians to ensure they can incorporate the brand’s roots into their reopening.

“[We did this] just to see that we really worked to understand how the store [operated] when it was in its full glory in the19th century. And we really worked on this idea when we reopened Bully. That was the work. So it was a big change if you say what was going on in 2013 to 2014, but now [we have] products that didn’t exist in the 19th century—but I think it was closer than how the store was at the beginning of the brand,” she shares.

With over 800 products under their wing, Buly revitalizes everyday items to incorporate their natural ingredients, scents and adapt to current times. For example, matches, often used to rid foul odors in small rooms, are infused with a concentrated perfume. “And so when you light it, it’s like a bottle of scent,” Touhami shares. “So this is a traditional object, but we’ve designed this in a way that nobody did before us.”

And during the pandemic, they developed essential oil stickers which you can attach to the outside of your mask. “So this is a very cool product, and it’s very, very, modern and it’s the way we think,” she says. 

They also offer massage oils for humans and pets—one product for dogs and one for cats. 

Now in Manila 

Touhami says that despite the wide variety of offerings, Buly still amasses 30 percent of their sales from perfume; next would be their hand creams, then their perfumed body oil products. 

However, although these items usually resonate with women, interestingly, their male consumers are half of their overall customers. Perhaps, it’s due to their experiential boutiques that, according to Touhami, always have something new to discover. 

“I think our customers are looking to be surprised every time they enter a store and to discover something that they don’t know yet. We’re trying to share really a new age of beauty rituals, beauty secrets from around the world, and what we like in our stores that we are very dedicated to beauty, to perfume, to beauty accessories,” Touhami says. 

Officine Universelle Buly is located at Ground Level, Greenbelt 3, Makati. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Banner photo from @victoiredetaillac on Instagram

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