Sunday, March 4, 2012

Interview with Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne

Linda Pilkington
A while ago I wrote a post on my experiences with the Ormonde Jayne line of scents. It was a rather personal post and I wasn't sure if I should publish it, but then I went on and did anyway. The day after, I was astonished to find a mail from Ormonde Jaynes PR-woman Sarah, telling me she not only liked the post but if I wanted to, she could set up an interview with Linda Pilkington, the founder, owner and perfumer of Ormonde Jayne. Now, Linda is a role model of mine. She is a self taught perfumer, runs her own business, doing what she loves. She also comes across as a very nice and easy going person, who, just as me, loves to cook and spend time with her family. Well, of course I wanted to do an interview!

FF: First question, how did your interest in perfume come about?

LP: When I was 12 my mother gave me a bottle of Madame Rochas. She felt it was not appropriate for her to keep the perfume, as she was a married woman and had been given this bottle by a man! I loved the look of it and started asking around if other people had bottles I could have. I used to keep them on my bedroom dressing table, thinking they looked very sophisticated and grown-up. At first it was just visual appeal but as I grew older I started to appreciate the scents inside as well. One day a friend of my mothers came into my bedroom, saw all the bottles and asked if I was going to be a perfumer? I hadn't considered it until that point.
I'm also very much a crafts person. My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to make things ourselves, as we lived in the middle of nowhere and it wasn't much to do if you didn't invent it yourself. My sisters were into gardening and chocolate making, I was into making scented candles.

FF: How do you get inspiration for new scents?

LP: I have pointy little police dogs ears and  beady eyes that don't miss a thing. No, really, I get inspiration from absolutely anything. I might smell flowers on a beach in Mombasa, or I might see beautiful colors on a dress and go "Hmmm, I could use that somehow!" For Ta'if the inspiration were the natural environment where the ta'if roses grow. The plantations are situated near a hill-top village in Saudi Arabia and while we visited we got served dates all the time. Dates, dates and then date juice to go with them. That made me want to try to pair the ta'if rose with dates and also saffron, another very Middle Eastern ingredient.

FF: So you did the old chefs proverb "Grow together, goes together"?

LP: Yes, exactly! Also, I like to think that my collection should have something for everyone, I try to cover up if there is a type of perfume that is missing.

FF: I myself has had a rocky ride with the OJ scents. When I first tried them I felt downright intimidated by them, but gradually I've started to love them more and more. Do you get that a lot?

LP: Hm, I do see a similar tendency with the people hired in my shops. Not that they say they feel intimidated but they do say that after having worked here for a while they are not so keen on wearing the type of scents they wore before they started with me. Also I notice my scents seem to be addictive to my clients. You can sell a lot of bottles of a scent with just massive marketing but if you want returning customers you must have something more than that.

FF: Do you have any favorite notes to work with? 

LP: Pink pepper! It's brilliant and it's present in all my scents except for Tolu. And there is hedione, a synthetic that's very useful for opening up a formulation, thus allowing the perfume to follow a journey. And Iso-E, I love Iso-E.

FF: Among the OJ scents, which ones are your favorites? 

LP: There are some that I like to rotate throghout the year. In spring I like to wear Frangipane, it is light but it also has depths. In summer I like Osmanthus and especially if I'm travelling to a hot country I like to spray Osmanthus on a fan and just fan it around. It's very fresh so this is especially good if you're going someplace that doesn't smell that good, like food markets. Champaca, an abstract floral, I like to wear if I'm going to make an impression, maybe if I'm going to meet up with someone in the perfume business or going to a perfumers convention. In autumn I love to wear Ormonde Woman and for X-mas I wear Tolu. Sampaquita is the only one I don't wear a lot as the lychee and peach notes can be a bit much.

FF: Any favourite travel destinations?

LP: Oh, I love Laos, and Nothern Thailand. It's amazing how everything seems to be in bloome there. It's so green and everything grows. I love that!

FF: When you're not working, do you have any hobbies?

LP: Gardening and cooking.

FF: Oh, I love to cook as well, what type of food do you like to cook?

LP: I just love food. I like to plan out the menu for a week in advance and really take my time, let things marinate for days, things like that. My husband is an excellent cook as well.  There are two Indian dishes that we do really well and spaghetti with king sized prawns is another classic. Sometimes we do a big fish in the oven, a good Sunday roast or coq au vin, but not with chicken, but with other wild birds we can get, like pheasant or whatever is in season. During weekends I eat everything I like but on weekdays I eat more healthy, in order to keep my figure.

FF: Haha, my way of keeping my figure is that my kids mostly eat fish fingers, which are so boring I can hardly bring myself to eat more than a mere minimum.

LP: Yes, food and children is always a challenge! I have a 3 and a 5 years old and we try to get them involved in the cooking. Like helping out preparing vegetables and peeling potatoes. Actually they are not that picky. The 3 years old loves seafood like mussels and the older ones likes unpasteurized cheeses. They also eat vegetables, but that's not of my doing. We used to have a nanny that was also a very good cook. She started out serving them vegetables with lots of butter and salt on. Then she gradually cut down on the butter and salt until they were eating just the vegetables. So that's a trick you could try.

FF: Thanks! One thing that I'm very curious to know, how did you manage to work as a perfumes while pregnant? Did your sense of smell get distorted?

LP: I was lucky with that. During the first 3 months I was very sensitive with scents but fortunately that passed. But I didn't mix any perfumes at that time because I didn't want to breathe in concentrated extraits as we don't know how they might affect the unborn. Also, I wouldn't trust myself to get a perfume right while pregnant.

FF: Your scents, do you envision them in any certain way?

LP: Yes, I do envision them. Like fantasy persons. I see an unique wearer for each scent, what dresses they wear, what colors surround them etc. You know, Ormonde Woman is based on hemlock and there are 3 types of hemlock. There is the tree, the bush and the plant. The plant (which is not the hemlock used in OW) is poisonous and if you boil it and then drink the water you'll first get a sensation that you're feet are numbing and as the poison spreads through your body, you get paralyzed and die. This was used in 15th-16th centuries as a womans way to murder a man. As a woman usually is physically weaker she cannot strangle a man, but to boil a plant and put into his food isn't usually a problem. And it's still done today. So, the persona of Ormonde Woman is a woman who knows what she wants. She has long raven colored hair, wears a long black cape and rides through the woods at night, maybe to meet a lover?

FF: Do you have a holy grail perfume?

LP: Yes I do, I'm working on one right now. It's about capturing and recreating a certain smell. I can't tell any more right now.

FF: That's very exciting! Do you have plans for any upcoming releases?

LP: Yes, I do. I'm working on something very special that we plan on releasing in July. It's a new idea and something different from the collection that have at OJ today, I got the idea from reading a newspaper.

FF: So, who is Ormonde Jayne, where does the name come from?

LP: Oh, I needed to have a company in order to handle an invoice I'd been given from an old friend of mine, a long time ago. The company was formed just on a spur. I lived in Ormonde Terraces at that time and my name is Linda Jayne, therefore Ormonde Jayne.

FF: What did you do in order to go from a new company that no one knew about to where you are today?

LP: I did nothing really. I just opened a shop. No P.R at the beginning. I've always used fine and unusual ingredients, that was my idea. It took us 7 years to become well known. A labour of love.

FF: Wow, that's very brave! In what countries is the OJ line sold now? 

LP: We do have 2 shops in London, one is our flagship shop on 28 Old Bond Street and we have a counter at Harrods. Our perfumes are also sold in perfumeries in Brussles, Dusseldorf and Switzerland.

FF: Are there any cultural preferences in what people buy in those different locations?

LP: Well, we do see a difference in our two UK shops. The clientèle at Harrods is more international, a lot of people from the Middle East. Our top sellers there are Sampaquita and Zizan. In the Old Bond Street shop our lighter fragrances are more popular. In our shops oversees I think we sell most of whatever scents the sales persons tend to like the most. For example, our Belgian SA always wears Tolu when I see him and that's also the top selling scent in his shop.

FF: Well that figures :) Do you have any plans to expand to Sweden?

LP: I don't see why not! I'd love to visit Stockholm, I hear you have lots of good antiques shops over there.

FF: Since I'm a perfume blogger, I have to ask, do you have any opinions on perfume blogging?

LP: Well, isn't that a fantastic medium. Anyone can reach out instantaneously to so many others and share opinions and experiences! In my opinion most people are very nice but there is always that one percent that can be very threatening, We get people that say things like "I'm a perfume critic at X , Y and Z and I'm not happy with your customer service. If you don't send this and that for free I'll trash your brand in any way I can until it's totally destroyed!"

FF: Oh no, that's horrible! How do you handle people like that?

LP: Usually we send them a mail or call them up and try to get them to calm down. By doing that, hopefully we get them to understand that we're a small company, run by nice people and if there are any misunderstanding we'll try to sort things out. Usually that works.

FF: Ok, thank you very much for this chat and for you answering my long line of questions! I'm very much looking forward to see what Ormonde Jayne will be up to in the months to come and keep up the good work :)


  1. I really enjoyed learning more about the Ormonde Jayne range and its inspiration, and also about Linda Pilkington herself and her views on so many issues, including child-friendly food! : - ) Ta'if is my favourite scent of the line, so I was particularly interested to read how it came about. And I look forward to the launch of this new HGS! I hope OJ opens in Sweden one day - I could just see it in its own store, like Byredo...

  2. Sigrun, you just never know what amazing surprises are about to turn up around the bend, do you? Congratulations on this lovely interview with Ms. Pilkington. Two beautiful women dishing on perfumes, cooking and children ... I loved it!

  3. Vanessa, yes, OJ in Sweden would be so lovely. We need all the scents we can get :)

  4. Suzanne, indeed, there are lovely surprises around every corner and on that subject, I'm wearing Amourage Gold right now. This I could get used to :D

  5. You do of course have COW, and the niche selection in NK is pretty fine!

  6. What a great interview! I enjoyed it a lot!

    As I keep telling everywhere, Ormonde Jayne is a unique line for me: there isn't a single scent in the current line-up which I do not at least like.

    I'm very anxious about this upcoming new release: I hoped it would happen this year (since there was no new launch in 2011) - so thank you for letting us know.

  7. Vanessa, wow, have you been here? I think as long as you stay in Stockholm there isn't too much to complain about. After all, with COW, NK and the Byredo store combined there are lots of scents to go through. The rest of the country is another story. I have this feeling that Swedes, as in very generally speaking, just aren't that attuned to scents as, say, people in Southern Europe or England. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I'm doing what I can in contributing to scent awareness by simply trying to smell great every day :)

  8. Undina, thanks :) Yes, I'm very curious as well!!!

  9. Thank you for sharing this interview, FF! It was wonderful to hear from the woman behind a brand I enjoy so much.

  10. And thank YOU, Nathalie for sharing your "chat" with Neela Vermeire! She seems to be a lovely person and she sure has some awesome scents :)

  11. I was an avid buyer of Ormonde Jayne, and brought nearly £200o perfumes year ayear. I get emails from Ormonde sating would I like a free new release sample, anot 1.3ml to try? On each and every occassion they never send any. An English nased company who did not accomodate cuteomers, espeically ones who brought from her and in scale beore the press accolades. Conversely I only brought once from Serge Lutes, from France, they would always send me samples, and even offer free engraiving at selected times. No bainer to say who I though rewarded me as a cutomer.

  12. I wish I had continued my perfume bottle collection!