Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Visit with Linda Pilkington (Ormonde Jayne Perfumery)

After a weeklong heat wave, London weather invariably regressed to its charmingly unpredictable nature by the time of our visit. Early Tuesday morning treated us to glorious skies of blue and happy sunshine. By lunchtime, the heavy clouds told us the rain was not just a passing summery drizzle, but it was too late: The Sniffapalooza program was already in full swing and we were running on a tight schedule. No way to rectify the early morning mistake of open shoes and airy clothes. We moved from Miller Harris’ flagship store in Mayfair towards Old Bond street through the ever worsening weather with our small group, huddled under our umbrellas to protect hair and clothes, but with absolutely no way to protect our soaking wet, besandalled feet. Succumbing to laughter with every wrong turn we took through the blanket of rain and alternating between grumbles, quiet ‘eewws’ and giddy giggles as though we were on a school trip, we reached the protection of our next destination: Ormonde Jayne Perfumery.

The Ormonde Jayne boutique is located in one of the most favorable locations in London: Not only is it right off Bond Street – one of the most prestigious shopping streets one can find in the bustling metropolis, with boutiques like Hermès and Chanel gracefully lining its length- it is also housed in the gorgeous Royal Arcade, which is small yet packed with exclusive shops. Its offerings range from the most fabulous chocolatier (Charbonnel et Walker), to high quality antiques, silverware and bespoke shoes. The Ormonde Jayne boutique itself can be found on number 12 of the Royal Arcade. Sleek, modern and sophisticated, the interior somehow manages to be cozy too – possibly due to its mignon size. Inside, Linda Pilkington was waiting for us, the huge smile on her face as inviting as though we were old friends. How can one not feel comfortable? We were served champagne and truffles from the aforementioned Charbonnel et Walker (let me tell you, I’ve never had a better truffle in my whole life, this was deliciousness itself) as introductions were made and our group settled in.

Linda Pilkington is an exuberant, petite, youthful blonde with excitingly intelligent eyes. She can be likened to a flame: she’s tiny, but boy can she start a blazing fire! Her excitement about perfumery is incredibly contagious – just a few minutes into our conversation we had forgotten all about the beastly weather and we were all gaily spraying perfume while she passionately talked to us about each of them. Movingly (very much so might I add) her demeanor created an extraordinarily comfortable environment: it was obvious that this wonder woman derived pleasure from our excited play. There was no uncomfortable feeling of having to be extra careful with the hefty bottles – they were being passed around excitedly and sprayed with abandon, all the while encouraged by Linda herself. The term ‘wonder woman’ is not just thrown out there thoughtlessly either. Listening to her impassioned presentation, it was easy to understand that this now world-known luxury perfume brand is not actually a machine that rakes in the cash. Quite the opposite in fact: it is a labor of love, riddled with difficulties and struggle. But the woman behind it does it all with a smile, because she loves it and is devoted to it.

Time seemed to fly as Linda spoke to us about her inspirations, greatly influenced by her travels which she touched upon with great passion: exotic locales like Morocco, Laos, Thailand and Japan all serve as inspiration behind her marvelous creations. The basmati rice accent in her Champaca (my favorite of the line) is her comfort note, the smell she wants to return to after a long, hard day. The beautiful (handmade) packaging of all her products in turn, is directly inspired by the Japanese Bento box (a lunch box which can range from those that are very simple to the extremely intricate, elevating it to a status symbol). I’d always loved the line’s packaging, but never made the connection. Suddenly, the moment it was explained, I saw it, clear as day. When the time came to smell Iris Noir, she went on to explain that most iris perfumes smell powdery because orris is purchased as powder and has to be made into butter by the perfumer with the result that it very much retains its powdery scent. However, Linda herself does not like powdery scents (!) so Iris Noir had to be an iris scent like no other. To this end she employed a lot of musk, vanilla and patchouli to ‘mask’ the powdery nature of iris. The result is a glorious, feminine oriental which (I got the impression) is one of her favorites. We were introduced to the line’s newest perfume - Zizan- last and I have to tell you that it made a huge impression on our group, creating much excitement all around. Employing three types of vetiver, Zizan smells sharp and bracing on the blotter but smells entirely different on skin. To this extent, it can most certainly serve as an extremely convincing argument against those who believe that the relation between skin chemistry and perfume is a myth! Five people in our group tried it on their skin and I can attest to the fact that it smelled extremely different on each and every one of them!

Finally as our visit was coming to an end, I took the chance to ask Linda a question to present here on Fragrance Bouquet. The burning question in my mind was how a professional nose deals with the current environment in perfumery, difficult and restrictive as it has come to be:

Fragrance Bouquet: “What is your stand on the current situation with the restrictions in perfumery?”

The answer came swift and as always with this amazing woman, incredibly passionate:

Linda Pilkington: “Oh I don’t CARE!!! I do what I want with my perfumes. If you don’t like it, or if it makes you sneeze, don’t buy it!”

To which Fragrance Bouquet can only add: “YOU GO GIRL!”

I’m sure you’ll join me in my wish that more professional noses would take a similar stand and join arms in an effort to prevent the loss of gorgeous ingredients that enrich our perfumes. What we consumers can do it turn, is support brands like Ormonde Jayne, who keep using what they (and we!) please. I already loved this amazing line of perfumes before my trip to London – but now I am an even bigger fan, having met the amazing woman behind it. Leaving her shop I felt compelled to give her a hug for being who she is and doing what she does. She graciously returned it – hopefully without thinking I was mad! I hope you too feel a little bit like having come to know her after this piece.

Images: Figures huddled under the umbrella – Flickr by PetitPoulailler, The Royal Arcade London – www.londontown.com, images of Ormonde Jayne packaging and Linda Pilkington via the Ormonde Jayne website.


PinstripedZebra said...

You are such a sweety! Hugging her when you leave, I can just picture it.

Oh, Charbonnel et Walker, those strawberry truffels were just amazing, I can't wait to taste them again.

For your bento pleasure (if you are interested) http://lunchinabox.net/

Suzanne said...

You're on a roll, girl! Another wonderful post.

I've not tried any of the Ormonde Jayne fragrances; must rectify, as I have only ever heard them described in the most rapturous of terms. The one I'm most curious about is Tolu...have you reviewed it? **off to go check**

Ines said...

I definitely feel like I got to know her. :) I already had a high opinion of the line (I haven't tried everything yet but Champaca is my favourite as well) and now I'm thrilled to see that Linda is going to keep her wonderful standards.

thescentmuse said...

Lovely interview! I find OJ Champaca totally alluring as does my DH...Ormonde Woman her sedate sister. Fabulous to learn from you that Linda doesn't do powdery scents well. Iris or Tolu will be on my next to try list...

Bettina said...

Divina, this article absolutely reflects the vibes and the mood of this day. To me this visit and to meet Linda Pilkington was the most impressive part of Sniffapalooza. Well there were other people who were in a way "impressing" but in a very different way. I have seldomly seen an energetic and passionate woman like Linda. I know one other female perfumer who left the same impression on me. However this visit was the best. The atmosphere in the little shop is very nice and welcoming. The perfumes are awesome and Linda is full of passion for what she does. It is hard to resist not to be carried away. I did enjoy her stories a lot and I could really envision the impact of travels to Morocco and other places.
Triple thumbs up for this piece of yours. Luv it.
Cant wait for my sample set to arrive. And yes, skin chemistry is sooooooooooooooo different!

Divina said...

Hey Z! That's a fun site, quite interesting to see what others stuff in their lunch box ;) If I have the time later today I will look for a link with a really nice bento box (not the contents, the actual box) to show. I've seen some amazing ones, with inlaid wood and just so much detail. Supposedly at picnics during sakura viewing, the more elaborate and expensive the bento box itself, the more impressive you would be (higher status). *coughs* this reminds me of purses nowadays :P

Divina said...

Oh, Suzanne, thank you! Yes, I have in fact reviewed Tolu! It is one of my favorites and your instincts have pointed you to one of the line's gems! The shower gel is magnificent too btw.

Divina said...

Ines, ok I have to make a list of things to send you then! I definitely have a couple of OJs I think you might like!

Divina said...

You are lucky, scentmuse! I can't wear OJ Woman, and it is one of the most widely loved scents in the line - not to mention possibly the strangest! Iris and Tolu I wear with joy however :) Highly recommended, especially Tolu.

Divina said...

Bettina! So nice to hear your own thoughts about our visit! Thank you so much :) I remember that you enjoyed the visit as well and how her fragrances overwhelmed neither yours or my nose despite the fact that we were in a small space. Isn't that amazing? It was a beautiful day!