Meet Your Maker: Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne
We sat down with Linda Pilkington to discuss the joys and changes within the fragrance industry since the launch of her brand Ormonde Jayne in 2002.
How do you describe Ormonde Jayne to your friends?
Ormonde Jayne is a privately owned perfume house known for its innovation. The fragrances are celebrated for their high quality and high strength. Ormonde Jayne clients tend to stay with us for many years, we have clients who first came to the boutique when it opened in 2001, who are still coming in today.
What was the inspiration behind starting the brand?
I travelled a lot, and whilst travelling I purchased many things, from oils, to carpets and carvings. I had always wanted to do something for myself, and was very entrepreneurial, but didn't sit down with a business plan; it just happened.
One day I bumped into someone who worked for Chanel who remembered me from when I was a child, always mixing and making things. He asked me if I would create a scented candle for the Chanel fine jewellery boutique rather than buying one from somewhere. There were very strict guidelines, it had to be the exact colour of Chanel’s screens at the Paris Ritz, and the scent had to be a very particular amberesque, so I was nervous about creating it.
I then had to form the company to send in an invoice and things went from there. I started making room sprays, and had to get an alcohol licence to make perfume. Things just evolved naturally.
We started with quite a standard offering, using winter white flowers and jasmine, those sorts of fragrances. Which is when I realised that we would need a point of difference.
I was trying to convince a lady I was creating a fragrance for, that I could create a perfume with a flower no one else was using. She asked me what the flower was and had to tell her that I didn’t know yet!
And that’s when I decided that I wanted our point of difference to be using ingredients that not many other people are able to use.
Your first perfumes were released in 2002. In your opinion, how has the industry changed in the past twenty years? How do you think it has changed for the better? How do you think it’s changed for the worse? What one thing would you change if you could?
Things have mostly changed due to bureaucracy, and now having to do much more paperwork than before.
It used to be that you could sit with other creatives or perfumers; add in ingredients, mix it, and then the next day take it and sell it.
Now you have to do a lot more compliance and there are legal obligations. Which are all for a good reason of course, but the perfume industry is really quite different to how it was. I think it would be quite difficult to start a perfume house today in the way I started Ormonde Jayne.
When it comes to the creativity side you can't just do what you want when you want to. When it comes to creating a perfume you already have to take into account what you can and can’t do so you don't get disappointed.
If we’re not mistaken some of your fragrances are made in collaboration with Geza Schoen. Can you tell us a bit how you met and began your working relationship? What do you like about his style of creation and, if you’d like, are you able to tell us a bit about the dynamics of your creative process with him?
Geza and I met when he came into my studio and asked to borrow 25L of alcohol as he didn’t yet have his alcohol licence yet. I told him to go to my studio tomorrow. As it happened, he lived only 5 minutes away. He ended up staying for about 2 years. It was wonderful because I learnt a lot from him and he learnt a lot from me. I was more up to date on the business side of things like where do you get bottles from etc. He helped me because I didn’t have the introductions into some of the perfume houses in Grasse that he had. He introduced me to Expressions Parfumées who were a huge help in setting up Ormonde Jayne.
Geza is the complete opposite of me, we are chalk and cheese. But I think that’s quite good. The signature collection, other than Privé, was all Geza and I. The whole philosophy of Ormondy Jayne is the art of travel, I was explaining that to Geza, it’s all about finding ingredients from around the world that nobody else is using. He did say to me “you’re buying yourself a problem here, because what happens if they don’t grow it anymore? The reason why people don’t use these ingredients is because there’s not a lot of it!”
For me I thought ‘okay good, I’m glad, I want to use these speciality oils’ and that is what made it so exciting.
Geza is invaluable.
Did you ever expect Montabaco to become the best-selling sensation that it has become, and in what way - if any - did that change your business?
You always know you’ve got a winner on your hands when people are going into boutiques and remember the name of the perfume. It was wonderful to see people all over the world asking for Montabaco. We didn’t anticipate that it would be such a huge success. All the ones I think will be a roaring success. I’m usually wrong. Sometimes they will come into their own two or three years down the line. I actually thought that Tsarina was going to be the one from the Four Corners of the Earth collection that would be a massive hit. But it was Montabaco.
I think a lot of people don’t know our great perfumes, so when they say ‘have you got a new perfume?’ I always say ‘well have you ever smelt some of our other collections?’ We have such a large catalogue of perfumes and want to put some back into the spotlight that have been in hibernation.
So then, how did Montabaco Verano come to be?
We wanted to celebrate the anniversary of Montobaco. I told Geza that I wanted to put in a grapefruit topnote to make it verano meaning summer, but I didn’t want to lose its smoothness so we added a cashmeran note to stay true to the beautiful seductive perfume that Montabaco is.
What do you hope your customers get from wearing Ormonde Jayne?
We don’t really like heavy perfumes that enter the room before you do. I like it when the ingredients unfold one by one and there is a lovely journey, and then the next day your clothes still smell beautiful, maybe even better. We have customers who have been wearing the same fragrance for so long, they tell us that they open their wardrobes and the smell just wafts out, I think that’s wonderful.