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Meet the Maker: Marius Fabre

Marius Fabre | Boston General

This fall, we had the opportunity to travel to France to attend a trade show, as well as to meet some of our vendors who are based there. During our trip, we traveled to Provence to visit the headquarters of Marius Fabre, makers of authentic Savon de Marseille. Our experience there was nothing short of inspiring, and it renewed our enthusiasm for this centuries-old French brand. 

Upon arriving at the Marius Fabre facilities in Salon de Provence, we were greeted by Marie and Julie Bousquet-Fabre, the great-granddaughters of the company’s founder, Marius Fabre. They gave us a tour of the factory and explained the history of Marseille soap as well as the process of making it. 

A Brief History

Marius Fabre began making soap in 1900 at the age of 22. In a small factory outside of Marseille, he utilized one of the region’s abundant natural resources — olive oil — to produce soap using traditional Savon de Marseille methods. Production endured through the years despite world wars, changes in consumer demand, and modernization of clothes-cleaning methods. Today, the company is 124 years old and is owned by Marie and Julie, making it a fourth-generation family business. 

The Process

Over 122 years later, Marius Fabre is one of only a handful of companies making traditional, authentic Marseille soap, and the original cauldrons are still in use. During our visit, we saw the room where the cauldrons are kept and met the Soap Master, who is in charge of the recipe and the process of making the soap. The huge cauldrons were several stories deep and were open and exposed to the air. They were full of bubbling soap sludge. 

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store

The team explained to us that Marseille soap is made of only four ingredients: vegetable oils, salt, water, and soda. No perfumes, dyes, parabens, preservatives, or animal fats are used. Ingredients are combined in the cauldrons, and after 14 days of mixing, heating, and rinsing, the soap is ready to pour.

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store 

While still hot, the soap paste is poured into giant molds built into the floor using a wooden feed pipe called a  goulotte. The soap is then left to dry before it’s cut into large 35-kilo blocks. It's then cut down into smaller rectangular blocks using a machine and hand-stamped. 

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store

The method for creating Marius Fabre’s iconic soap cubes is a little different. The soap is still produced in the same way, but instead of being cut into blocks, it’s turned into little pellets which are then pressurized into block molds. The moisture is essentially squeezed out, so that the cube is shaped into a perfectly uniform block. If the cubes were simply cut into a cube shape and stamped, their shape would get quite wonky as they dried, which some companies embrace. Marius Fabre prefers a more symmetrical shape, so they use the pressing method. 

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store

A Look at the Past, and the Future

After walking through the factory, we went to the museum. Created in 2000 in celebration of the company’s centennial, the museum tells the story of the Marius Fabre brand. As we perused the exhibits, Marie told us a bit more about the history of the company and the struggles that each generation endured. There were wars, financial crises, and more recently, a global pandemic. Through perseverance and dedication, the company has managed to stay afloat through it all, preserving the legacy established by Marius back in 1900.

After a quick tour of the museum, we had a chance to sit down with the team and discuss future products and plans. They were generous with their time and enthusiastic about working with us to share their products with our customers.  

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store

The pride that Marie, Julie, and the rest of their team had for their company, and for the long history of the Marius Fabre brand, was inspiring. They hold themselves to such high standards and really challenge themselves to stay authentic. Seeing the process by which their products are made gave us a renewed appreciation for the art of soapmaking. The quality of the product they produce and the integrity with which they run their business aligns closely with the values we look for in the brands we carry in our stores. 

We invite you to shop our selection of Marius Fabre soaps and experience the authenticity and effectiveness of their Savon de Marseille products. 

Marius Fabre | Boston General Store

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