Ramdane Touhami is an unapologetic nationalist, at least when it comes to design. In his presentation, the entrepreneur, art director and owner of L’Officine Universelle Buly advocated for diversity and deglobalization in design, and lamented the effect that social media is having on retail aesthetics.
“Right now, everything looks the same. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram [are] destroying creativity,” Touhami exclaimed. “We are destroying everything and making everything the same. I’m really against it.”
To combat what he sees as an assault on creativity, the executive has made the decision to make every one of his L’Officine Universelle Buly stores look different, reflecting the culture and aesthetics of the country it calls home.
“We decided never to do the same store. Every time we go to a new city, to respect where we are. This is extremely important,” Touhami said. “We have to go back to our borders. Why is it going to be interesting to go to Paris if all the Paris stores look like the New York shops? If you go to New York and it looks like Sydney? We are lost in translation and I am lost in my eyes in terms of cities. I don’t recognize my cities.”
While each L’Officine Universelle Buly’s store looks somewhat different, they have certain things in common, reflecting the aesthetics and history of the brand. Since it was established as a perfume shop in Paris in 1803, Touhami has incorporated elements such as painted ceilings, marble, ornamental woodwork, and glazed terra-cotta tiling to call to mind old apothecary shops.
But not all design decisions are made based on Buly’s history. The Tokyo store, for example, is an architectural marvel split down the middle, making it almost look like two different stores. On one side is the old French apothecary, all tiled floors and carved woodwork. The other side is a study in Japanese minimalism, with the main materials being waxed concrete, glass and aqua-colored resin windows. Ironically, considering Touhami’s views, it is an infinitely Instagrammable space.