A BRAND BORN INTO THE WORD OF THEATRE AND THE PERFORMING ARTS
In 1863, Bourjois was born on the great boulevards of Paris in the theatre district, at a time when France was the world's second leading economic power. The actor Joseph-Albert Ponsin was the company's first creator; he prepared makeup and perfumes for actors and actresses in the comfort of his own home. In 1868, Ponsin entrusted his entire activity to Alexandre-Napoléon Bourjois. The company blossomed in the hands of Monsieur Bourjois, who made it internationally known.
The first creations were waxy makeup sticks in many colours, with amusing names like Jealous or Lovesick, specially created for theatre, by Joseph-Albert Ponsin, a genial visionary, part actor and a great cosmetologist.
His cosmetic palette broadened rapidly; the refinement and variety of his makeup brought success that extended beyond the circle of actors and actresses. His "Supplier for the Theatre" title on the makeup boxes gave way to a new tagline: "Special Manufacturer of Products for Feminine Beauty".
How do you achieve a very fine and silky powdered texture that dusts the skin with soft, transparent colour?
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...this is the principle behind a complex recipe that Bourjois has been improving since 1863: add a few grams of shimmering mother-of-pearl, let it bake a bit more, depending on the effect desired. One hundred and fifty years worth of experience guarantees a certain expertise in preparing makeup!
Java rice powder was launched in 1879 and was designed to lighten skin and leave it silky-soft: women adopted this idea immediately and Bourjois then extended to the mass market in many countries.
A steam factory was built at Pantin in 1891. In 1897, it sold two million boxes of Java rice powder worldwide. Product information was translated into five languages. At that time, the telegraphic address for Bourjois was "Poudjava Paris"!
Makeup for cheeks, for eyelids, rice powders, polishes, lipsticks and Indian tablets that were the ancestors of mascara, as well as "perfume extracts for the handkerchief," "perfumed sachets to put inside slippers," toothpastes, hair lotions...and even a "Hungarian pomade" to help arrange a gentleman's moustache!
The offer of beauty products was extremely broad and each piece was elaborated by paying very careful attention to detail, all the way to its presentation in the sales catalogue.
The amber, floral and spicy scent of Soir de Paris, designed by Ernest Beaux, came in a midnight blue bottle that is highly valued by today's collectors. In the United States, the name “Soir de Paris” became "Evening in Paris" and was extremely successful.
With Evening in Paris, the luxury of the bourgeoisie became accessible to the middle classes that developed in the thirties.
In the thirties, Bourjois developed hundreds of Evening in Paris boxes for every budget; each box contained feminine beauty essentials, from makeup to perfume, in its true original forms. There was a music box created in 1958 that still plays "Forever and Ever" when you turn the key, a box in the shape of a sailor's beret, and so on...
The festive series of the Evening in Paris gift boxes illustrates the brand's creative imagination, like the "party hat" box back in 1953. Bourjois deployed treasures of imagination to present products in the shops of Britain and the Commonwealth countries such as the "Owl" box for Australia produced in 1939; the "Gift for the Beach" box from 1949 and seasonal creations for Christmas or Easter...
This was the name of a very practical makeup kit created in 1890. Bourjois had already addressed concerns with simplifying beauty and making life easier for women. The kit included a small midnight blue cylindrical box containing lipstick, powder, a puff and mascara.
Bourjois also designed an ultra-thin version with 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. Packaged in elegant and avant-gardist mini cases, women carried them around to touch-up on the go.
During the roaring twenties, when women demanded independence and a new identity with the "tomboy" look, Bourjois provided women with strong support giving them a new way to apply makeup: not only for personal pleasure, but also to affirm their personality.
In 1936, Bourjois evoked women's right to vote through one of its campaign while the idea was still under discussion in the French parliament. Women were not effectively given the right to vote until 1945!
With the invention of the Bourjois "mini" range in the late 19th century, cute and practical with modern-style designs, Bourjois was the pioneer of the “makeup on-the-go" concept.
Initiating "story-telling" marketing, Bourjois told about the adventures of "Babette" in 1924. She was a young and elegant imaginary woman, who was the ambassadress of Pastel perfumes and makeup in all the leading newspapers for six years. She was the heroine of a series of over 200 short, punchy titles such as "Babette Exterminates Some Statues”, "Babette in Trouble!" "Babette Tries to Close Her Trunk," "Babette Prepares a Masterpiece," "Babette and the Reluctant Fiancé," etc.