Look what I got in the mail today… a gorgeous, gorgeous candle to celebrate Bourjois’ 150th birthday
But wait… 150th birthday?? I never realised Bourjois was that old a brand. Really. Which set me thinking about what else I did not know about this chic and quirky Parisian makeup house. Quite a lot it seems: for instance, the fact that Bourjois created the world’s first powder blush. Or that it once had 124 perfumes. Or even that it used to make toothpaste and cigarettes. I am guessing not too many of you know these stories either, so here’s a look at 150 fascinating years of Bourjois history. Tell me, which is the fact that surprises you the most?
Did you know that Bourjois created the world’s first powder blush? Or that it once had 124 perfumes? Or that it used to make toothpaste and cigarettes?
1. Bourjois was born when Joseph-Albert Ponsin, part actor and terrific cosmetologist, opened a shop at 28 Place Vendome in Paris to sell perfumes, toiletries and cosmetics. The boutique was soon purchased by Alexandre-Napoléon Bourjois and renamed after him. By 1898, the business was in the hands of Ernest Wertheimer – who also owned the perfume division of Chanel.
3. In 1863, Bourjois created the world’s first powder blush based on a complex recipe: combine a careful amount of of powder and water, mix it delicately, pour it into rounded moulds and put it in the oven to bake. Now, 150 years later, the little round pot of Bourjois blusher is still one of the brand’s bestselling lines.
4. By 1898, the Bourjois catalogue had over 700 items, including makeup for cheeks, for eyelids, rice powders, polishes, lipsticks and Indian tablets that were the ancestors of mascara. Then there were “perfume extracts for the handkerchief,” “perfumed sachets to put inside slippers,” toothpastes, hair lotions, perfumed cigarettes… and even a “Hungarian pomade” to help arrange a gentleman’s moustache!
5. The invention of a ”mini” Ladies’ Friend collection in the late 19th century made Bourjois a pioneer of the “makeup on-the-go” concept. This ultra-thin makeup kit had a moiré palette and built-in mirror, a mini push-up lipstick in a deep red shade, a mini face powder and a small powder puff in swan’s-down material – all packaged in and elegant and avant-gardist mini case that could be slipped into a handbag.
6. In 1907, Bourjois diversified into perfume with Manon Lescaut. One of the most successful was the amber-floral-spicy Soir de Paris (Evening in Paris), created by Ernest Beaux – the “nose” behind Chanel No. 5. It’s midnight blue bottle is highly valued by today’s collectors.
7. Foreshadowing their mastery of the quirky and the coloful, Bourjois developed hundreds of Evening in Paris boxes during the 1930s. Each box contained varying combinations of make up and perfume, with the most splendid one being a musical version that still plays Forever and Ever when you turn the key.
8. By 1974, Bourjois had introduced 124 fragrances, with many of the bottles made by Baccarat and Cristalleries de Saint-Louis.
9. Initiating “story-telling” marketing, Bourjois told about the adventures of “Babette” in 1924. She was a young and elegant imaginary woman, who became the heroine of over 200 short, punchy titles such as Babette Exterminates Some Statues, Babette in Trouble! and Babette and the Reluctant Fiancé.
10. Bourjois continues to invent and innovate well into the 21st century, with masterpieces like the Coup de Théâtre mascara, the first double-ended mascara and Suivez Mon Regard, a loose powder eyeshadow in a clever box that delivers the right amount of powder onto the built-in brush. Today, the emphasis is on color – ranging from neutral shades to vivid hues – and making Parisian style accessible to women across the world. The Bourjois catalogue includes over 400 shades and that 100 of these are renewed every year. And for collectors who just can’t resist those original iconic Little Round Pots, Bourjois regularly launches limited edition vintage series.