Where everything begins...
In 1900, aged just 22, Marius Fabre set up his soap factory in Salon-de-Provence.
He set up in the shed at the bottom of his garden, which he converted to house two cauldrons and a few stakes.
Salon-de-Provence was then experiencing a period of great economic prosperity, based on the manufacture and trade of olive oil, soap and coffee, developed thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1873.
Marie Fabre takes over
In 1914, Marius was mobilised at the start of the war and left his wife, Marie, in charge of running the business. For four long years, with the help of an old Italian foreman, she made and sold the soap.
In 1927, with its success, the Marius Fabre soap factory moved to its current premises, which were larger and could accommodate the huge vats needed for saponification. It was the old Couderc factory.
Production intensified. Seventy workers were busy during the day. At night, two master soap-makers supervised the cauldrons, accompanied by a boiler driver. Two lorries went down to Marseille every day to take the goods to the quayside and bring up the raw materials.
The second generation arrived on the eve of the Second World War
In 1938, Fernand, Marius's eldest son, succeeded his father at the head of the soap factory. The outbreak of the Second World War led to a major shortage of raw materials.
The decline of the Marseille soap industry began in the 1940s, but Marius Fabre managed to overcome the difficulties of the time by looking for new outlets.
The soap factory overcomes current difficulties
From the 1950s onwards, the soap industry continued to decline in the Marseille region. There were several reasons for this decline:
• the emergence of products used in washing machines,
• the creation of new soap factories in regions outside southern France,
• the development of supermarkets, which encouraged consumers to stop stocking up on big-ticket items such as household soap.
Although many soap factories closed their doors, Marius Fabre managed to overcome the difficulties of the time.
In the 1960s, the well-known "La Sainte Famille" brand was bought by the Roux company in Marseille, giving a new lease of life to the Marius Fabre soap factory.
A new lease of life as Marius' son takes over the reins
In 1973, Henri, Marius's youngest son, took over the running of the soap factory. At the age of 10, he was already playing with a little cart in the middle of the warehouses, and one day he wrote his name on a bar of soap: they all had to be remelted! He has been in charge of production and shipping since the age of 20.
These were difficult years for Marseille soap, as competition from products derived from the oil industry was fierce. The soap factory employed only forty workers. Habits had changed and so had the clientele.
The third generation
In 1987, Henri passed the torch to his youngest daughter, Marie-Hélène, who had been working alongside him for several years, and to his son-in-law, Robert Bousquet.
The return to naturalness and authenticity gave hope for better days for Marseille soap.
Export sales are on the increase, reflecting the popularity of a product with an international reputation.
The conquest of Japan
Marie-Hélène and Robert's efforts to restore Marseille soap to its former glory began to bear fruit. Japanese importers contacted them. They were won over by the quality and skin care benefits of Marius Fabre Marseille soap. They also found in it the characteristics that the Japanese demand of any product: Quality & Excellence.
More than 30 years later, they are still loyal to the Marius Fabre soap factory.
100 years and one Museum
The Marius Fabre soap factory is celebrating its centenary. To celebrate this event, it is creating the region's first Marseille Soap Museum. The museum takes its natural place at the heart of the soap factory, in a former drying room, and complements the visit to the production workshops, which have been open to the public since 1996. The factory shop has also been renovated and enlarged.
A continuing family story
Marius's great-granddaughters, Julie and Marie Bousquet-Fabre, decided to continue the adventure, following in their parents' footsteps.
They want to preserve this unique know-how and the soul of the Fabre family business. They made their contribution by developing direct sales (from producer to consumer!), as they had done in the early days of the Fabre soap factory, while at the same time strengthening distribution through retail outlets in France and abroad. They set about defending the authentic "Savon de Marseille", alongside their colleagues in Marseille.
Anna, the youngest sister, joins the Marius Fabre adventure, contributing her artistic know-how. She takes part in this adventure from Paris, creating all the visual communication for the soap factory.
First shop in Paris
The first Marius Fabre boutique "outside the walls" opens in Paris, in the Marais district, to meet the demand of Parisian and international customers looking for genuine Marseille soap.
In December 2018, a 2nd Marius Fabre boutique opened in the old centre of Salon-de-Provence.
New shop in Arles
The Marius Fabre soap factory opened its 4th boutique in the historic heart of Arles on 6 April 2023. Faithful to the spirit of the other boutiques, this new address reflects the world of the family soap factory and its production workshops.
Today, a team of 45 passionate people work every day at the Fabre soap factory, alongside Marie and Julie, to promote Marseille soap and the Marius Fabre soap factory throughout the world. The natural products of the Marius Fabre Soapery are distributed in over 40 countries.
Like a family, generations of people from Salon have passed through the pots and pans of the Marius Fabre soap factory, contributing to its renown and that of Marseille soap.