Glass interviews serial entrepreneur and designer Ramdane Touhami

Serial entrepreneur and designer Ramdane Touhami is always on the lookout for something different, be it fashion, fragrance or brands

CREATIVE powerhouse and devotee of the savoir faire, Ramdane Touhami is a hyperactive multi-multi-hyphenate who has aced an astounding number of roles in the fashion, retail and branding worlds, setting up companies – hugely successful ones – in the way anyone else might take a breath And he is still only 46.

The son of Moroccan immigrants, Touhami grew up in Montauban, southern France, and began his brilliant career in 1993 when as a young skateboarder he launched Teuchyland – his first streetwear brand. He moved to Paris and, after a period of living on the streets, formed his skateboard company, King Size, in 1997.

The next year he set up a concept store, L’Épicerie, showcasing up-and-coming designers, which evolved into a gallery and record shop. On the back of this, he was recruited by fashion legend Jean-Charles de Castelbajac to develop a concept store for him.

Ramdane Touhami

By 2000, he had relocated to Japan, a country he loves, with the mission to shake up the And.A chain of fashion shops. The following year, the peripatetic Touhami returned to Paris to found with his wife, Victoire de Taillac, the VDT and T press office representing Aesop, Tod’s, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Colette, among others. In the same year, the couple opened Parfumerie Generale, a make-up and skincare store with an extensive array of brands that revolutionised the way cosmetics were sold.

Later roles include being recruited to overhaul the menswear department at Liberty in London. In 2006, he was asked by the owner of the French wax company, Cire Trudon, to revive its fortunes. Creating 12 scents for its candles and paying attention to historical detail in almost an obsessional way, he relaunched the house with a flourish. It would go on to be an enormous success, making the scented candle a fashionable and covetable item.

In 2014 using the same bold approach, he took on reviving Buly, a Paris perfume store set up in 1803. He and his wife have transformed it into Buly 1803, a global brand with 45 stores in nine countries, selling more than 700 exquisitely made items. Integral to the brand is its expert gift wrapping overseen by Buly’s head wrapper using the Japanese art of origata. Each of Buly’s retail assistants are trained in calligraphy.

Touhami speaks to Glass about his life in retail and fashion and the “incredible challenge” of creating his playfully designed magazine, WAM, in which he is the main feature, even in the dedicated Gucci ads (designed by Gucci’s creative director, his good friend Alessandro Michele).

Eau Triple Rose de Damas

You say the secret to your success is  “work, idea, optimism”. Can you explain how you arrived at this?
I would love to say “parties, girls and music” …  but the reality is different. I believe: first energy, you will need a lot; then patience, ideas and work. When you start a project, you never analyse how you go about it. You just do what you have to do and then, when the things start to pay, your question is always: “What happened? Why does this client buy my things? There are millions of things on earth, why mine?” Then you realise that everything you did, from the big details to the smallest, are finally paying off.

WAM magazine cover

What motivated you to move from fashion to the world of fragrance and candles? And how do you find working in these different arenas?
I would still be designing clothes, but the world of fashion is intellectually too empty and always late. Too many old people decide everything, and too rapidly. You just finish a collection; don’t have time to digest; already on to the next one. In beauty, you have more time to create a product – sometimes one product takes a year [to develop] and you sell it for years.

I love the fact that you’ll live a longer time with your creation. Home fragrances are a bit like music, penetrating everywhere. When I go to someone who uses my creations, it gives me an idea of the person I’m dealing with. In fact, I’m no longer old enough to go to parties to talk about my creations as I used to do when I was in fashion. It’s the part I hated the most; what I liked in fashion was just the creative process. While in perfumes, what I prefer is, strangely, the process of selling and stores.

Buly Perfume


What do you take from the world of fashion and bring to Cire Trudon and Buly 1803?
The coherence, the fact of creating a world – from the tiny bottle to the uniforms of the sellers, to the catalogues, to the design of the stores. With Buly, I am freer, and I have more budget … Some fashion designers do it very well – look at what Rei does at Comme des Garçons, or Alessandro Michele at Gucci. If not from Trudon, I learned to combine history with perfume.

What was your reaction to their huge successes?
I have never been surprised. Buly today is five times the size of Trudon. It has 300 employees around the world. I always knew that if I made a project with freedom, being alone at the controls, with enough budget, without other shareholders, with good products, consistent and good salespeople, beautiful stores – it would work. It’s a simple life – a good design, a good product, good retail staff, a very good quality, a good price. This always pays off.

Victoire de Taillac

Why did you decide to create your own magazine, WAM and how did you find the process?
I loved making this magazine, I did it because I bought a very old printing house in Switzerland. I wanted to use it, so I made a magazine about my friends, as a hobby. I called my friend, Alessandro Michele, I told him that I was making a magazine about me, and I wanted a Gucci ad with me in [it].

He said, “That’s funny, let’s go”. The same with Birkenstock. Then we created all the fonts with my agency, Art Research and Industry, and printed this magazine with letterpress – no one does it this way now as it is too expensive.

This project was big fun. I spent a lot of money, but I liked the project and I have no regrets. Besides, I come back with two other ideas: a magazine about the Arab world, Pan Arabic, and a magazine about things we hate that I will call Phobia.

How has the pandemic affected you from a personal and business perspective?
I’d like to tell you that I’m depressed and everything’s going wrong, but it’s weird, it’s the exact opposite. I’ve been waiting for chaos all my life. Crises are my DNA. I’m only good in times of crisis. I bought 10,000 masks in January 2020 when nobody was talking about [the pandemic]. Buly doubled its size during the crisis, probably due to the fact that I bet on Asia at the beginning of this project and also invested a lot on the internet.

Personally, we’re bored – no more restaurants, we only see our friends on screens. It’s the bad side. But fortunately, I have children and a wonderful wife, and I continue to travel because I have many residence cards. Here I’m [communicating with] you from Tokyo for example.

What has been the highlight of your career? And also, what challenges have you faced and overcome in your career, so far?
I hope to see the peak of my career as late as possible because that would mean that everything would be a downhill slope afterwards. Let’s say I have a come a long way, I was homeless in 1995, so I come from far, very far … All I see is science fiction.

Even the job I do, I didn’t even know it existed 20 years ago. I come from a poor background, without books, the son of an immigrant worker, so [the thought] that one day I would be supplying kings and queens in perfume had never crossed my mind. Let’s continue the adventure, let it get crazier every day.

Scented Mask Stickers

The theme of this issue of Glass is “breakthrough”. What does breakthrough mean to you?
Life can be boring one day, unbelievable the next day – you always have to get up with enthusiasm. We will always have problems, we must always – and this is my advice – aim that they affect you the least. I have the technique of never thinking about it again.  Some people think about it again and again. Me never. I look forward every day, curious about the next day … again and again.

 by Caroline Simpson


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Editor-in-chief Glass Magazine

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