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Bullier-Pinceaux Léonard: a passion for innovation!

172 years separate the take over, by the wife of the late Mr Bullier, of the house Cherion & Samuel, a brush factory located in Paris dating from the end of the 18th century, from the ebrush 1S, a brush capable of drawing and making up on all the capacitive touch screens on the marketplace. Quite a remarkable adventure indeed that of Bullier-Pinceaux Léonard, this Breton SME located in Saint Brieuc and whose turnover this year will exceed 2.8 million euros. Review of an outstanding performance with Stéphanie Bullier, CEO, and Fred Ghenassia, Sales and Marketing Director.

Premium Beauty News - Innovation is probably what best characterizes your approach?

Stéphanie Bullier - That’s true, we can say it has been in the family genes for seven generations. We always pay careful attention to all evolutions, not to say “revolutions” that could have an influence on our activity of brush manufacturers. And the development of the ebrush 1S represents to date one of the most original illustration. This brush makes it possible to draw and make up on all capacitive touch screens on the market. The EBrush 1S which was granted the jury’s “Coup de Cœur” Award at the last MakeUp in Paris trade show, was designed with the same special care as all our brushes. This brush enables a make-up simulation and gives free rein to creation by opening the door to a whole new vision of make-up, a high-tech vision.

ebrush 1S

ebrush 1S

Premium Beauty News - People have no idea of the expertise it takes to make a make-up brush?

Stéphanie Bullier - As you know, a brush consists of three main parts, the handle, the metal ferrule, and of course, the hair or the fibres. Clearly, the most important part of a brush is the hair. Looking at a hair, one can observe the “root” and the pointed tip called the “flag” It’s the flag that makes the fineness of a brush, so it must be kept intact and never cut.

Before beginning the manufacturing of brushes, every hair within a bundle must have its flag at the same level. This is where vibrating machines come into play: the hair is placed in metal rings above which wooden plates operate up and down with rapid but minimum oscillation. To make sure that no hair remains standing out, we dust plaster powder over the bundles to keep the hair slippery.

Then the hair is inserted into a first flat and thick bottomed cylindrical brass mould that we tap on a marble slab to let the hair settle down on the flag. The hair is then ready for the manufacture of square ended brushes. For curved or pointed brushes, we use a second specific mould, with a rounded bottom. Once the hair has settled down at the bottom of the mould, we tie the root up with a linen thread. To give the lock a more pointed shape, it is rolled between the fingers. At this stage the dexterity of the worker is fundamental and can only be acquired through years of experience.

The fineness of the flag varies with the type of hair. The finer it is, the more expensive the hair is. The other important characteristics of the hair are its springiness, its ability to become straight again after having been bent, and its capacity to retain liquids.

There are also a lot of varieties of synthetic fibres that look more and more like natural hair. Brushes are made the same way.
But what really makes the difference is the proper assembly of the hair, and this is the result of a long standing brush making tradition of which we can be proud.

Premium Beauty News - In spite of the international competition and, in particular, coming from regions like Asia or India, it is still possible to keep manufacturing in 2012 make-up brushes in Brittany?

Fred Ghenassia - Of course it is possible! Bullier-Pinceaux Léonard employs 35 people, and even if the sourcing is partly done in India for some product lines, our finest pieces are achieved in Saint Brieuc. Remember that there’s up to eight different stages to make a brush. This requires a very specific expertise and excellent workmanship. Our expertise in manufacturing allows us also to innovate in terms of materials used, on the shape of the brush and of the hair or fibres, on the type of handle or the ferrule.... We have for example patented a new form of ferrule enabling a new gesture for the application of the product on the face.

Premium Beauty News - Are the times auspicious for make-up brushes?

Stéphanie Bullier - Well in fact yes absolutely! And it is mainly due to the professional make-up industry who wanted, a few years ago, to find alternatives to the use, of very average quality brushes coming from emerging countries. These professionals opted for quality which definitely gave us a boost. A phenomenon which then attracted most brands. Quality = expertise, expertise = Bullier/Pinceaux Léonard. Today we work with the most renown brands. We are also specialists in small and medium series, from 100 to 1000 pieces. And the “cosmetic” share in our activity keeps growing, reaching now more than 55% of our turnover.

Interview by Jean-Yves Bourgeois

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