Stepping into a Buly 1803 store — also known as L’Officine Universelle Buly — is like stepping into a 19th-century Parisian novel. With its fine oak carpentered shelves, hand-written labels on bottles and boxes, rare horn and acrylic hair brushes, sponges and curiosities, it immediately transports shoppers to another time and place. All that’s missing, perhaps, is an alchemist and his apprentice. Today, however, you no longer need to go all the way to 6 Rue Bonaparte in Paris to experience this cultish beauty brand in all its glory.
On the heels of a worldwide streak — shops in Taipei, London, Seoul, Tokyo and a second Paris location have all recently opened — Buly 1803 has finally soft-opened its Hong Kong shop this week, with a full grand opening planned for 13 September. It’s not the first we’ve seen of the boutique brand, as a selection of its products were earlier made available at Lane Crawford, but seeing them in this handsomely designed space is a different experience altogether.
In Buly 1803’s Wyndham Street store, three walls are filled from floor to ceiling with built-in mahogany shelving and labelled drawers for ingredients, taking a leaf out of a Chinese medicine pharmacist’s cabinet perhaps. Paired with retro tiled floors, it genuinely feels like a colonial-era laboratory. (Assisting with its operation in Hong Kong is none other than Kapok, one of our favourite lifestyle shops in the city, which touts boutique luxury brands from all over the world.)
While the feeling of a storybook time portal is intentional, fusty and dated its products are not. These days, Buly’s most beloved products are made up in a French laboratory using natural ingredients and without parabens, phenoxyethanol, or silicones. The brand’s pioneering water-based perfume is perhaps one of its most sought-after products, but equally popular are its fabulous tubes of skincare pomades and creams, fragrant face and body oils — even dental-care concoctions — as well as a vast collection of rare oils, clays, dried herbs and botanicals for you to make your own healing blends.
Buly 1803 actually has its roots in a 1800s perfumery founded by one Jean-Vincent Bully, and was a brand very much in vogue with well-heeled Europeans back in the day. It was particularly celebrated for its ‘Vinaigre de Bully,’ a patented, perfumed, vinegar-based cleansing lotion. Monsieur Bully was held in such high regard, he also went on to inspire the character César Birotteau from Balzac’s “Scènes de la vie Parisienne” cycle in La Comédie humaine.
Laying dormant for 200 years, Bully’s formulas were brought back in 2014 — dropping one “L” in the process — and reborn as Buly 1803 by its current founders, Victoire de Taillac-Touhami and Ramdane Touhami, who prize the long-gone bespoke touch of traditional beauty apothecaries. At Buly, the customer’s needs are treated individually, from the selection of products targeted to your skin type, occasion or particular needs; to services such as engraving and calligraphic printing to make the product truly yours. The level of craftsmanship and thought put into each individual product from the sourcing of ingredients to the moment it’s sold — whether it’s a tube of toothpaste or an elegant, hand-painted flacon for perfume — is what stands out here, and in a city where there is no dearth of choice for luxury beauty products, Buly 1803 is a breath of fresh air.
Aside from discovering each of Buly 1803’s signature products, we’re also excited about the level of service and personalisation the shop is guaranteed to deliver, which elevates each item from over-the-counter beauty solution to really something that feels like a lifetime collectible. In true testament to this, each item is, of course, beautifully gift wrapped as a final flourish — a sincere and elegant invitation for the customer to return for more. You can’t get any more luxurious than that.