Celebrating their 150th birthday, Catherine Turner looks back on her love affair with Bourjois
I’ll always remember my grandma’s bright pink cheeks. In her handbag she carried a little round pot - her rouge. Every now and again, she’d pull it out with her powder compact and proceed to top up the colour with a teeny powder puff. She died when I was 13, just when I was starting to get into make-up and somehow I inherited her pot of rouge. I didn’t ever use it, but kept it as pristine as I could. I treasured the delicately detailed paper packaging, pored over the fancy label in French ‘Rouge de Bourjois Paris, Cendre de Rose Brune’ and inhaled the gorgeous rose candy smell.
I still have that very pot and became a lifelong fan of the playful Parisian brand, especially the blushers. Later, I found out they are produced in virtually the same way they’ve always been since 1870 when it was called Rose de Ville - it’s blended like a cake mixture and baked in ovens. The delicate rose scent turns out to be a tiny drop of pure rose oil, mingling with the other ingredients to make that powdery, candy aroma I’ll always associate with my grandma. Apparently, the factory smells heavenly.
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For me, that little round pot sums up the allure of cosmetics, why we’ll continue to buy them even if we don’t necessarily use them every day. (I seem to wear less make-up as I age, but still accumulate more). Practically speaking, there’s the beautification side: applying blusher is an instant pick-me-up, it makes the complexion more glowy and all the better to face the world. A simple act of self-improvement.
But there’s also the ritual, the opening of the pot - in a way more intricate now as it comes with a compact mirror and a tiny, perfectly shaped application brush rather than a puff - spending the time to apply and taking care to blend. And of course, that smell, which becomes a part of ‘me’, all adding up to a little luxury everyday.
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This year Bourjois is celebrating its 150th birthday, and on a trip to Paris last week to visit its new boutique and take a look at the archives, I found out that Monsieur Bourjois’ original intention was to make affordable cosmetic products to bring everyday luxury into women’s lives. Seeing products from all the decades - for example, silk rosette powder puffs, embossed leather look pot rouge casing from 1914 (pictured here) - I think you’ll agree he achieved it, and there’s lots more to come:
The original Bourjois beauty store opened in the exclusive Place Vendome, Paris in 1923 but closed its doors in the 1930s. Now there’s a super compact and bijou 21st century version in Passage du Havre, just behind Boulevard Haussmann (where all the big department stores are). It’s total Bourjois heaven with the entire range, including skin care and accessories we don’t have in the UK, and 470 shade choices. There’s also a Jolie Room for make-up lessons, manicures and eyebrow threading (a snip at 15 Euros for 15 minutes). Plus, you can join the Enamel Open Bar for 1 Euro, choose any colour, take a seat and paint your nails. Anyone who’s ever used the Bourjois nail enamels knows that the flat edged brush means precision application, so even the least manicure savvy of us can create the perfect ten.
The little round pot blushers are available nationwide now, in 15 shades, at £7.99 each, but new things are coming. Mid-May there will be limited edition Vintage Blush Pots in three shades including Cendre de Rose Brune, a lovely rose pink which launched in 1914 which still looks great now. Each pot has a gorgeous Je T’Aime advertising design dating from the ’30s on the front, £7.99 each.
And, we’ve just had a sneak preview of the Cream Blush, still in the iconic round pot, but a lovely creamy texture which goes on sheer, builds and holds its colour - loving it. Available mid-May in four shades, also £7.99 each.
Finally, we’ll be hot footing it to Selfridges Beauty Workshop next month to see the birthday blush tower - a patisserie-like stack of every pot rouge from all the decades. Ooh la la, good job they are not edible.