French husband-and-wife team Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac are one of the busiest and most entrepreneurial couples of today. Both are cofounders of Officine Universelle Buly, a luxury beauty brand with an emphasis on whimsical, naturally derived hand-made products and vintage-inspired graphics. Nomadic in nature, the pair prefer a life of travel and adventure to one of settled stability, and this adventurous spirit has shaped the nature of their beauty products. “We are gypsies,” says Ramdane, “We want to stay free. If tomorrow we decide to live in Hong Kong, Tokyo, or New York, we collect our stuff, and off we go.”
Ramdane and Victoire met in the late 1990s, while both were pursuing separate careers. Victoire was carving a name for herself as Public Relations Manager for the French boutique Colette, launched in 1997, while Ramdane was in the process of reviving the 1643 candle brand Cire Trudon, which had been dormant for over 350 years. Both come from divergent backgrounds; Victoire is the daughter of French aristocrats and was raised in Paris, while Ramdane is a former skate-kid whose family were French-Moroccan apple-pickers from Toulouse, but both shared a relentless creativity and a fascination with the rich history of their native France.
Chance attracted the ambitious and creative pair to the extinct beauty house Bully, first founded in 1803 by the perfumier Jean-Vincent Bully. The brand’s romantic history piqued the couple’s interest, as Victoire explains, “We wanted to find a brand from the 19th century, and we fell in love with the story of the founder of this beauty house opened in 1803, perfumer Jean-Vincent Bully.”
Rebranding a pre-existing company (and removing one of the ‘l’s’ from the name) allowed both Ramdane and Victoire to tap into their mutual love of French history, and this concept of tradition and old-world charm has been at the heart of their company ethos ever since, informing the vintage nature of their shop interiors, graphics and packaging. Their Parisian shop, for example is styled like an apothecary, replete with carved oak shelves, antique faucets, glossy marble worktops and tiled floors, while items are displayed in glass jars with ornate 19th century labels. Products themselves are derived as much from nature as possible, harnessing the goodness that comes from the earth around us and carefully hand-made and hand-packaged, a stark contrast to the synthetic, overproduced nature that defined so much of today’s beauty industry.
Paris is home, but the pair have moved house over 8 times with their three young children in tow, partly because they love to travel, and partly because the incredible success of Buly has seen them open stores in the world’s major cities, including Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and Tokyo. “Paris is home,” Victoire says, “but we enjoy discovering new places. Ramdane is restless – he likes movement.” Ramdane also sees this nomadic lifestyle as beneficial to their children, noting, “I want our children to experience something other than the daily grind of Parisian life.”
The couple’s freewheeling mentality has been hugely beneficial to the company, allowing them to visit cultures around the world in search of the most powerful raw ingredients for their products. After uncovering a wealth of hidden beauty secrets from around the world, Ramdane and Victoire published the fascinating book An Atlas of Natural Beauty: Botanical Ingredients for Retaining and Enhancing Beauty, published in 2018, which outlines affordable and accessible home beauty recipes for a wide range of exotic and diverse seeds, flowers, oils, trees, fruits, and herbs, including avocado, jasmine, oat and sake. The book seems to chime well with the couple’s ongoing, restless desire for knowledge, as Victoire explains, “We see “Officine Universelle Buly” as an endless work in progress. We create, improve, experiment with the products one after another. We love to surprise ourselves and to surprise our customers. The only criteria is quality.”