Why this heritage beauty brand’s first Manila shop is worth a visit

When it comes to beauty, the name of the game is constant innovation. New products, new variants, new shades of cosmetics, skin care, and personal care products come out every day. There is a need to find the next “it” ingredient that will promise to give bouncy skin or invisible lines — beauty means constantly looking at the future, but it’s also about trying to delay it.

These days, large conglomerates are in as much competition with each other as they are with smaller players who have niche but growing audiences of their own. “If you don’t put out new products regularly, then buyers will stop paying attention,” says a creative director who works for a Filipino-owned beauty brand. The industry is valued at over $500 billion worldwide in 2021 (from just $400 billion the year before), and is expected to grow even more in the next three years. The pace is fast, and the market is incredibly saturated. We forget what has made the rituals of skin care so appealing; to pause at the transformative power of a good serum, and to take time and see how it interacts with our skin.

That sense of wonder and otherworldliness might just be found within the cocoon of Officine Universelle Buly’s first Manila store. Founded in 1803, Officine Universelle Buly is a French heritage beauty brand known for its Parisian apothecary aesthetic; a time capsule that has gracefully withstood the years. Acquired by LVMH in October 2021, the brand was brought to Manila by H&F Retail Concepts, which has also brought in brands such as Thom Browne, Fred Perry, and Maison Kitsuné to the Philippines.

The Officine Universelle Buly store in Manila is located in the newly renovated Greenbelt 3 in Makati City, between multi-brand store Univers and streetwear label Off-White. Designed by the brand’s creative director Ramdane Touhami and the brand’s Paris-based design firm Art Recherche Industrie, H&F Retail Concepts founder Jappy Gonzalez says that the whole store was conceptualized and designed remotely due to the pandemic.

The Officine Universelle Buly space in Manila follows the tradition of the brand’s previous retail spaces: the interiors are inspired by local culture. The facade is simple, strong, and decidedly European: molded panels done in rich dark wood and black marble, with the brand’s name embossed in gold letters and a slender serif type.

Upon entering, an imposing pillar greets shoppers, done up in a shade of jade green that matches the walls. The placement of the pillar feels like the store is part of a grand piece of architecture; as if the Officine Universelle Buly store in Manila is simply a hidden alcove in a palatial space. The color is said to allude to ancestral neighborhoods across the Philippines.

The coffered ceiling is dark and geometric; it’s anachronistic against the Louis XV-inspired walls but offers a solid contrast to the decadence of the rest of the space. Flanking the store’s two long walls are tall display cabinets, where the brand’s many offerings can be found: products like Macérât de fleurs de calendula, a type of calming oil; or the Huile de graines de ricin, a strengthening oil for eyelashes and nails. There are also dental products like an orange-ginger toothpaste done up in bright colors and bold illustrations.

At the counter, the brand’s scent offerings are arranged in a neat queue, and there are outfitted pumps and spiral glass tubes that make it easier to smell each bottle. Right next to the scents, a display of tchotchkes are available for customization: lip balm cases can be monogrammed, with a custom leather cover and suede pouch color. Tortoiseshell combs and wooden brushes may also be customized upon request.

In a previous interview, brand creative director and co-owner Touhami said, “My motto is: one foot in the future, one foot in the past… You have to give the impression that the brand has gone through different times, different eras.” This may be the reason behind Officine Universelle Buly’s endless appeal: it has eschewed the race for industrial innovation as it continues to look into the past, giving its patrons a means to see beauty as a reason to pause, appreciate, and celebrate.

Officine Universelle Buly is located at Greenbelt 3, Makati City.

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