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EXCLUSIVE: LVMH Acquires Officine Universelle Buly 1803

The bijou French perfume and cosmetics brand was launched in 2014.

PARIS  ­— LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has added another bijou to its portfolio: the prestige perfume and cosmetics brand Officine Universelle Buly 1803, WWD has learned.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“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.

“Its refined products enjoy a significant success around the world, and we will do everything we can to ensure that this great family entrepreneurial adventure, led by Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami, continues to grow within the LVMH family,” he added.

LVMH, through its Luxury Ventures minority investment fund, has supported and assisted Buly for almost four years.

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“When Mr. Arnault gave me the authorization to launch the fund, I reached out immediately to Ramdane and Victoire,” Julie Bercovy, founder and head of LVMH Luxury Ventures, said in an exclusive interview. “Buly became the first investment in the fund in October 2017. There were only two stores at the time, and now they operate almost 30.

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“We’ve been very happy to support Buly,” she continued. “When Ramdane and Victoire decided to sell the company, it was natural for us to make an offer and to continue with this very strong relationship that we have built so far.”

The Buly acquisition marks the only time a brand supported by LVMH Luxury Ventures has been acquired by the LVMH group, which has 75 other brands in its portfolio.

De Taillac said she and Touhami jointly decided to sell Buly.

“Buly has been doing great,” said de Taillac, highlighting the brand’s network of 28 stores, plus 10 counters in Australia. “But the last two years have been very challenging due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. It was difficult for us to work in the way we used to, when we were going everywhere.”

So to continue growing, the pair felt they needed a larger partner, and that LVMH was a natural fit.

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. A new CEO should be named shortly and is to report to Stéphanie Medioni, executive president at LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics.

Buly was relaunched in April 2014 by Touhami and de Taillac. “I sell dreams,” said Touhami in August 2014, during an interview with WWD, while discussing the natural beauty brand.

Body care products.
Body care products. Courtesy of PIERRE MAHIEU/LVMH

Buly has a fictional quotient, too. Its idea came partially from reading Honoré de Balzac’s novel “César Birotteau,” which was inspired by a late 18th-century perfumer named Jean-Vincent Bully, whose signature brand helped establish French perfumery.

More concretely, Touhami had long wanted to mine the world’s time-proven beauty secrets. He did that for three years to help stock Buly’s boutique with the likes of emu oil from Australia (for its healing and antiseptic qualities); poppy powder from Morocco (for its lip-coloring ability), and water-based fragrances (for their gentleness and moisturizing properties).

There were even boxwood hair combs painstakingly handmade in Japan, boar’s hair toothbrushes, scented matches and an expansive clay selection with green desert, blue, illite green and yellow clay, each with various beautifying purposes.

Buly’s namesake products, made in France the old-fashioned way, sans parabens, phenoxyethanol or silicon — including body, face and home items — are housed in handsome wooden display units crafted in 18th-century style. The floor tiles in the initial store on Rue Bonaparte were fired in Sicily’s ancient Etruscan kilns, and tabletops are made of marble.

Said Touhami: “When you come here, you need time, because it’s a trip.”

Personalized service makes up a large quotient of the Buly experience, with offers including people’s names being written on products in calligraphy and special wrapping services.

Two years after the brand’s launch, it went abroad into Taiwan and Korea. Next, de Taillac end Touhami moved their family to Tokyo to open Buly’s first store there, in April 2017.

“That was a big step, because we decided to do it without any partners,” said de Taillac, who explained that Japan is now Buly’s second largest market, where it will open three more stores before year-end.

Korea and France are the brand’s other biggest geographic markets.

Buly two years ago teamed with the Louvre museum to collaborate on channeling some of the museum’s most iconic works into perfume.

“I long dreamt that perfumers interpret artists’ great works,” Touhami told WWD at the time. “There’s always just been a visual interaction. Why not an olfactive one, too?”

“A lot of people in the world discovered us through the Louvre perfumes,” said de Taillac on Thursday.

Buly has around 800 stock keeping units in its portfolio. The water-based scents generate between 30 and 40 percent of the brand’s revenues. Other bestsellers include scented body oils, hand creams and lip balms, which can be personalized with initials.

Officine Universelle Buly 1803's store on Rue Bonaparte
Officine Universelle Buly 1803’s store on Rue Bonaparte. Courtesy of LVMH

Bercovy said it’s key that Buly — like all the brands at LVMH — remains autonomous to express its personality.

“The founders of Buly and the employees are at the heart and the soul of the company, of the brand, and obviously, we don’t want to change that,” she said. “So our priority is to keep this magic that happens, and that is so important and inherent to the success of Buly.”

There is lots afoot for the brand before yearend. Buly is opening new stores in Europe — in Milan and Munich — in November. In total, 23 Buly stores are expected to open by yearend.

Upcoming product launches include bath salts and some scents linked to the Louvre tie-in. A perfume for sneakers just came out.

Walk into a Buly store, and time is meant to stop, explained de Taillac.

“The selling ceremony of Buly is so sophisticated,” explained Bercovy, adding it sets the standard for many brands. “It is very impressive.”

She said LVMH is proud to have Buly joining the group.

“Our intention when we invest is not to acquire the brand at the end of the investment period, but the alchemy was so good that it was quite natural for LVMH now to get closer to Buly,” said Bercovy.


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