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Companies & industry

Cosmetic brushes: The Raphael/Max Sauer Saga

It is no coincidence that most cosmetic brands work with us,” we were told at Raphaël/Max Sauer in Saint Brieuc (Brittany, France). “For more than 200 years, we have been manufacturing brushes for artists the world over; our experience is recognized.” Despite 23 million euros in turnover for the parent company, 145 employees in Brittany and nearly 400 in the factory located in Mauritius, Raphael/Max Sauer, the French leader in the sector, willingly cultivates the art of discretion. To such a point that a website only dedicated to the cosmetic activity, which represents more than 30% of the entire activity will only see the light in a few weeks. But it would seem that this “art of discretion” being synonymous with a unique know-how, was the reason for that. Overview of an industrial family saga with Pascal Goossens, Cosmetics Sales Manager.

Pascal Goossens, Cosmetics Sales Manager

Pascal Goossens, Cosmetics Sales Manager

Premium Beauty News - A Industrial family saga obviously begins with a story.

Pascal Goossens - Indeed, the origin of the current Max Sauer company dates back to 1793 in Paris. Today, it is the oldest factory in Europe for the maufacture of fine brushes. It is in Paris, just a stone’s throw from the Pont Neuf, that Mr. Parent establishes his brush factory in 1793. The French company manages to develop itself in spite of troubled times in connection with the Revolution, the Empire and the Restoration. The activity continues from 1820 to 1859 with the company changing hands. Then, in 1859, at the age of 34, Charles Sauer acquires the company and relocates it in Oinville, 50 km from Paris. His son, Max Auguste Sauer, undertakes the construction between 1895 and 1900 of a highly modern steam plant in Hardricourt. It was not until 1925 that the manufacture of fine brushes was transferred to Saint-Brieuc by Max Sauer Jr.

After the death of Max Sauer in 1960, the Max Sauer Company, directed by Michel and Gérard Sauer is transferred in 1967 in a new factory which is expanded in 1973, 1987 and 1991. The Berge Artists materials, (founded 1920): canvas products-rolls, pre-streched, canvas boards, as well as Artists’ colours, Art papers and other Artists materials from Sennelier (in 1887), are acquired and now manufactured in Brittany. All products are currently distributed in more than 55 countries around the world.

With the fifth generation, the Company’s succession is now represented by Eric Sauer since 1987. Innovation, research and development, are combined to tradition and know-how. Family rigour in the management, team-work, superlative quality and customer service all remain the top priorities of the Max Sauer Company.

Premium Beauty News - In fact, when did the company exactly begin the purely “cosmetic” activity? And what is the difference between artists brushesfrom the ones intended for applications on the face, eyes and lips?

Pascal Goossens - It goes back to more than fifty years, when major cosmetic brands asked us to manufacture their branded brushes. The market naturally developed thereafter. The two main differences concern firstly the nature of the hairs used. Indeed, the choice of the hair or of the fibre is related to the use of the brush, depending of applications and textures. Then shapes are different, also depending of the type of application.

Premium Beauty News - Brush designing and manufacturing truly concerns an almost unique area of expertise. To which times do the very first brushes date back?

Pascal Goossens - The exact date of manufacture of the first artists’ brushes in France is unknown. In the past, artists would learn to make their own brushes as well as their own colours. 2000 years BC, the Chinese had the idea of inserting natural hairs into bamboos, to write their ideograms. Then in 1730, appeared metal ferrules. It was not until shortly before 1789 that the first workshops, then factories started to appear. French manufacturing had at the beginning a very large monopoly, then Germans from Nürnberg came to learn the French technology. This is why the French form of artist brushes is still the most used around the world.

Our brushes are made by highly skilled workers, the “pincelières”. Products are controlled at each stage of the manufacturing process. Handles and ferrules are selected to offer solid brushes with a flawless finish. The tradition and know-how of our brush makers has been passed on from generation to generation and the extreme care we take to prepare the fine hairs before the manufacturing stages result in supreme quality for the end user.

More than 30 people are required for the manufacture of a brush which requires on average three weeks preparation before the brush is completed. The tuft is never cut but made entirely by hand. Extra-fine or fine bristles are conical and have a unique natural “flag” which gives the brush its incomparable softness particularly appreciated for all cosmetic applications.

Premium Beauty News - It is was rather surprising, in fact to see, while visiting you, that this “cosmetic” activity represented nearly a third of your business and that “discretion” forced you to create a dedicated website only in a few days!

Pascal Goossens - That is true, but we work with major brands and our relationships are both very old and based on trust and loyalty. And it is also in very close partnership with them that we develop a lot of novelties in the form of fully customized products.

Premium Beauty News - The make-up brush seems to have been given a real lease of life.

Pascal Goossens - Absolutely! And professional make-up Artists, very demanding in terms of quality, are the ones that help the market move forward with quality products. We have developed a true specialty in custom-made brushes.

Premium Beauty News - What main industrial and/or commercial investments have you planed in the coming months?

Pascal Goossens - We want to focus our efforts on international development which today represents 35% of our cosmetic activity (in direct sales, apart from sales performed abroad which are conducted by our clients). Its among others, at this level that our new website will enable us to showcase our long standing expertise.

Interview by Jean-Yves Bourgeois

© 2012 - Premium Beauty News - www.premiumbeautynews.com
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