There’s a new store in town, well it’s actually been here since April, but it’s definitely ‘new’ in the sense that there’s really nothing quite like it in Paris or indeed anywhere else come to think of it. It’s called Buly 1803 so you already know there’s an interesting story/history behind it. Apparently, the original boutique opened in 1803 by Jean-Vincent Bully who was known for his signature perfumes and scented vinegars. Bully was so well-known in fact, that his ‘Vinaigre de Bully’ (trans. ‘bully vinegar’ sounds like an Irvine Welsh movie) was the ‘Chanel No.5’ at the time in Europe. (Even more impressive, Mr Bully was the inspiration for one of Balzac’s characters, César Birotteau.) Fast forward 200+ years later and the two owners, a husband and wife team, Victoire and Ramdane Touhami reopen the store on the quaint Rue Bonaporte in St Germain de Près.
Cleverly taking the second ‘l’out of Bully’s name but sticking with its authentic vinegar/perfume-making principles and ingredients, Buly 1803 was reborn. As it clearly states in its antique manifesto-like brochure, it’s ‘Armed with its founder’s spirit of conquest and innovation, Buly creates a new skin care concoctions, drawing on the lost innovative cosmetic techniques and on the virtues of natural ingredients’. All without parabens, phenoxyethanol or silicone. I like it already.
Even if you just happen to stumble across the storefront something draws you in and once inside you’ll see why. It’s fascinating interior takes you back to the 19th century. Think Madame de Tourvel (Michele Pfeiffer’s character) in Dangerous Liaisons. There’s an air of mystery about the wooden century carefully crafted library that instead of books in its shelves presents magical, medicinal apothecaries.
Arched shelves and small wooden drawers beckon you to come a little closer to delve deeper in all its nooks and crannies to discover gifts that are as beautiful as their surroundings. Jars of powders, plant-based lotions, tubes of mint tea toothpaste, scented glass bell candles, unusual water-based perfumes, Japanese incense sticks, different argile clays (great for deep cleaning pores) and my favourite, exotic luscious vegetables oils (from Açai berries to prickly pear), even emu oil which is renowned for its healing and antiseptic properties, who knew! I got the raspberry seed oil which relieves dehydrated skin and seeps into your skin so easily with no greasy leftover appearance. For deeper moisture, use a few drops with Buly’s famous Pommade Virginale (great name)—a skin softening cream with linden water and sweet almond oil that softens lines as well as blemishes. It’s fantastic. Oh and did I mention the hairbrushes? Boar bristled brushes to detangle your hair without ruining those beautiful 19th century curls as well as body brushes to you rid your creamy porcelain skin of all impurities…the visible ones at least!
What really strikes you is that all Buly products are gifts…eternal presents. Once used, you’ll never want to part with them. They’re art in themselves. Beautiful watercolor-painted and hand drawn illustrations that you might see on an antique deck of cards. Even the hand-drawn brochure gives you an idea of the detail that was taken to recreate Bully’s old store. Even the packaging is an example of 19th century elegance. The bags, booklets, labels, and brochure seem like a gift in themselves.
Everything is so well thought out and impeccably designed you might wonder what agency did the Buly branding? Look no further than the partners. Ramdane takes full credit. Bravo! The authentic, delicate, intricate graphics, drawings and fonts make you want to purchase them all and proudly show them off on your Ikea bathroom shelves. Talking of the bathroom, why not place their beautiful long matches above the toilet seat! At 12€ a box they’re not a steal but with six different illustrated boxes they feel like a collector’s item and are sure to become a conversation starter at the dinner table.
No wonder Buly is becoming one of Paris’ real treasures. In my mind, the products make for the perfect Parisian gift when you want to give a dear friend something French that she won’t easily find in Paris or indeed anywhere. Finally, the friendly staff are not only groomed in costumes that add to the ambiance, they’re also very helpful, speak English and know the products inside out. Just remember once you walk out of Buly 1803, you’re back in 21st century Paris!