Ramdane Touhami on design in the reinvention of Buly 1803
In an exclusive interview, Ramdane Touhami shares the story of his overhaul of the historic brand, Officine Universelle Buly 1803
Ramdane Touhami is one of the most innovative designers in the beauty industry today, spearheading the rebranding of Cire Trudon before recalibrating the aesthetic identity of Officine Universelle Buly 1803, the brand he has relaunched in 2014 with Victoire de Taillac.
Under the leadership of Touhami and Taillac, the 19th century pharmacy has become a veritable Wunderkammer of strange and dazzling products from all over the world. Think volcanic stone from Sicily used to remove calluses, precious perfume bottles from Japan’s oldest porcelain maker, Tucuma seed oil from Brazil to preserve your tan, and more.
Perfume dispensers at Buly 1803 store
The brand is also a provider of innovative skin care products that revive the use of age-old products such as multi-purpose clays and natural powders for the hair, mouth and face. It also offers a range of perfumes in collaboration with the Louvre; and created scent stickers that are used to scent your face mask.
Now Touhami launches The beauty of time travel: Officine Universelle Buly and the work of Ramdane Touhami, a brilliant 400-page book that guides readers through its historic brand reinvention, covering everything from its management philosophy to the typeface used on their Buly 1803 products.
Here, Touhami breaks down some of the book’s guiding principles and shares his thoughts on successful design.
Ramdane Touhami on the fight against aesthetic globalization
Each of Buly 1803’s shops is unique, in a way reflecting the aesthetic heritage of the city in which it is located. For Touhami, this is an essential part of building a successful retail empire.
Buly 1803 Tokyo, Daikanyama store
“Any retail operation must necessarily take into account the specificity of the cities and regions in which the brand is established”, explains Touhami. âThis intellectual effort, as much as it is graphic, is essential to feel a marketing success. Wouldn’t it be proof of intelligence to look around, to incorporate what already exists?
âFollowing this path anchors the Officine Universelle Buly in people’s consciousness. If you move to Toulouse or a certain district of Tokyo, it seems pragmatic to me to use red brick, like the one you find in the city. If I go to London, I will integrate the Victorian [influences]. Art Deco in New York. Globalized stores as we know them must take this element of regional decor into account in their international strategies.
Typography is fundamental for brand identity
For Touhami, each element of Buly 1803’s identity must be taken into account, including the typography he designs specifically for the brand.
Ramdane Touhami and his companion Victoire de Taillac in one of Buly 1803 shops
‘[People] have only relied on standardized graphics for 50 years. In 1929, when Mies Van der Rohe designed his Barcelona pavilion, all the furniture was designed. Look at Perriand or Le Corbusier, the concept was total, from A to Z, as brand identities should be. Typography, graphic elements, furniture, lighting, all thought out and developed with a single objective in mind: to beat the competition and assert its own identity â, specifies Touhami.
âYou have to be careful never to fall into a typographical routine. I have always tried to surprise in a particular style (30s, 50s), while keeping a semblance of consistency. The art of adjustment! We must not remain frozen on its achievements; constant evolution remains the key. ‘
The past is necessary to innovate in the present
âMy motto is: one foot in the future, one foot in the past. We have to start looking for the right balance. Copy and paste is never very appealing. You have to give the impression that the brand has gone through different eras, different eras, âexplains Touhami.
âA 19th century brand has inevitably evolved over time. You need to be able to feel the story of your products, and especially when you see them. ‘
A successful design is …
‘Popular. It must appeal to the greatest number. Especially in terms of sales. It is a balance between aesthetic success and commercial success.
âBut above all, the one who does it must be happy, as well as the one who sells it and the one who distributes it. It is a pledge of authenticity and truth, which are the basis of a Japanese philosophy of life called honmono. It certainly produces a good design! ‘
Touhami’s most surprising discovery was …
Touhami regularly travels the world in search of beauty rituals and little-known ingredients. His discoveries are the key to Buly 1803’s vast and fascinating product line. Of all his discoveries, he says, the most surprising has been the powder of nightingale droppings in Japan.
Buly 1803 combs from all over the world
‘[It has] healing and anti-wrinkle properties for the epidermis, âhe says of the unusual and traditional ingredient’s use. âIt is urgent to promote these treasures of beauty, which naturally [work] for our good. Â§