Interview by Scott A. Sant’Angelo
Photography courtesy of Officine Universelle Buly
* Originally published in Issue No. 3
As an entrepreneur and art director, Ramdane Touhami has collaborated with Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche and Liberty, and masterminded the rebirth of the venerable Cire Trudon company, for which he notably created new and now-famous interior “smells”. He was also the inventor of the olfactory ritual of bell-covered candles. Under his aegis, Cire Trudon has met with international success, with distribution deals in 58 countries. Today, he heads Officine Universelle Buly and is orchestrating its renewal, designing new counters and stores in Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Honk Kong and New York and coming up with new products and uses with a retro-futuristic flair.
Scott A. Sant’Angelo (SAS) — I know you are not one to be stagnant, you continue to relocate yourself and your family to new cities, new cultures, what keeps your drawn to not just traveling for those experiences but picking up everything and moving to new places?
Ramdane Touhami (RT) — What keeps us moving is the fear of routine. The idea of going every day to the same café, of seeing same faces, of coming across the same dogs in my street and of working with the same teammates, always, scares me. Also, I really want my kids to see beyond their habits and comfort also to discover new languages. To be honest, where we move is most of the time where I am about to open our new shop. It is very important to understand fully the culture where we are introducing Officine Universelle Buly to. People have different ways of buying and different beauty habits, which we need to gather and experience.
SAS — As a follow up, if there was one place you could see yourself spending the rest of your time, where would that be and why?
RT — That’s the question I cannot answer. If I already had an idea, I won’t be still roaming around to find it.
SAS — Building or re-building a brand takes more then just a good idea or funding, reading your quotes suggests that like to be involved in each aspect of the business. Are you able to delegate well and allow others to bring your vision to life?
RT — It’s true that I am implicated in every aspect of the project, from creating a product to dealing with the suppliers, from designing our future store to building a digital strategy. But every member of my team is doing its bit. We have global meetings every day, it can sound intense but it’s essential that everyone is aware about the current projects each department is working on in order to share ideas and opinions.
SAS — How important is history and provenance to you when deciding to take on a project? In your vast experience, do you prefer creating something new or reinventing an older brand?
RT — Both are exciting but we should not rely too much on the heritage of a brand. At first, thinking of a good history of the brand is enough but if we ever be too focused on it, the brand won’t grow. You have to untie yourself from it and stay faithful at the same time.
SAS — Does one in a creative field ever retire? Do you see yourself flipping a switch and not continuing to do what you do? Is there a passion project out there that you wish to see out?
RT — There is no retirement possible because creating is more like a way of life than a profession. When I enter a boutique, a restaurant or an architectural building, I of course have opinions, thinking what I would have done differently and what is well-thought. You can’t retire from life. I just acquired an old printing house, I am very excited about it for now but it might not last so long. I get bored very easily.
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