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.