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L’Officine Universelle Buly Opens in Tokyo

The store marks the French perfume and skin-care brand's first entry into the Japanese market.

TOKYO — Paris-based cosmetics brand Buly will open a store in the trendy Daikanyama area of the Japanese capital on Saturday. It marks the company’s first entry into the Japanese market, as well as its first wholly owned flagship outside of Paris. But Victoire de Taillac, who owns the brand with her husband Ramdane Touhami, said that Buly already has a strong following in Japan.

“Japanese customers have a sense of details, and we put great care into the details in the design of the store, but also in the products, also in the way we wrap it, in the calligraphy. And Japanese customers tend to see everything, so they’ve been very nice because they’re very enthusiastic,” de Taillac said. “And also I think Japanese tend to love Paris, so once they know you have a store opening in Paris you have Japanese press who come right away. And they covered the opening, so from day one we had Japanese customers.”

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The 513-square-foot Tokyo store is tucked in the back streets of Daikanyama in a newly constructed building. It is divided in half, with one side representing the brand’s history, which dates back to 1803, and the other representing its present and future. The historical half is designed with walnut wood cabinets and display cases, and white and aqua floor tiles. The modern half features neutral tones of gray, raw concrete and resin windows where many of Buly’s botanical ingredients are preserved. The line separating the two sections is painted in gold, a reference to the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer.

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In addition to its Paris and Tokyo stores, Buly has shops in Taipei, Seoul and London, which are all operated with local partners. It will be opening a corner in Bergdorf Goodman in New York on April 18. But the Tokyo store is the first international location that de Taillac and Touhami, the brand’s president, will own and operate on their own, and they moved their family to Tokyo last year to do it.

Buly’s Tokyo flagship will carry its entire line of skin care and fragrance products, including oils, powders, clays, perfumes and scented candles. The products come from all corners of the world, including a unique Japanese paper soap that will launch on the same day the store opens. Available in three scents, this is one item that has special meaning to de Taillac, as she first fell in love with paper soap when she was 18. After years of searching, she finally found a manufacturer, and was able to add a stronger scent to it than is typical of the traditional Japanese version.

The brand is also known for its water-based perfumes (16,000 yen, or $142 at current exchange rates), which de Taillac said were developed in order to avoid the use of alcohol. When sprayed onto the skin, the liquid comes out a milky white, but then absorbs just like an emulsion.

“It’s something that you couldn’t have made 10 years ago,” de Taillac said. “When you’re a small company you have to be more creative than the big ones.”

Other unique products include vegetable wax candles with glass domes as covers (17,000 yen, or $151) and small ceramic boxes containing a stonelike material that is a biproduct of the textile industry and is used in construction and gardening in Japan because of its ability to absorb and then slowly release moisture. But de Taillac realized it could also be used to release fragrance, so she sells squares of it with a bottle of fragrance oil that can be used to top it up as necessary (6,800 yen, or $60). There are also oils from around the world including argan, arnica, baobab, hemp, camellia and prickly pear; over 60 different types of handmade acetate combs; toothbrushes with wild boar bristles, and scented matches, which are handy for quickly getting rid of a “not nice” smell in small spaces such as bathrooms. What all the products have in common is their use of the best natural ingredients (some of the perfumes use up to 90 percent natural materials), their whimsical packaging design and glass bottles and their delicious scents.

“For me [beauty] is not goal-oriented,” de Taillac said. “Of course you want efficiency, of course you want to have the best skin you can have, but I think beauty now is about feeling good about yourself. And I think taking nice products into your bathroom is a way to feel good at the end of a long day, which we all have.”