Linda Pilkington's petite frame belies an effervescence for her fragrances and creative endeavours.
"There was never a moment when I said I would have a perfume house," says London perfume house Ormonde Jayne's founder. "It was nothing more than a happenstance, because we never really plan what we're going to do with our lives, and then we find ourselves in a new situation and we just run with it, so that's just how life is."
There was never a moment when I said I would have a perfume house; it was nothing more than a happenstanceLinda Pilkington
What I found most endearing was that Pilkington could recall Ormonde Jayne's inception with such enthusiasm and humility " as if it were yesterday.
"I am originally from Cheshire, and the nearest biggest town is Manchester. I always wanted to buy nice things, far more expensive than my pocket money (permitted). I wanted a Biba chair, big feathers … we used to make this craftwork, and at the end of the afternoon I would have 16 candles or room spray, and I would go from door to door selling them. I was trying to get some money together to buy what I wanted."
Pilkington recalls how her dressing table was full of perfume bottles, all because they looked good, not so much for their scent. "Back in the day, I didn't speak French, and nobody in England would say, 'I want to be a perfumer'. I ended up working with a Japanese company."
As serendipity would have it, a friend who worked at Chanel's fine jewellery boutique on Bond Street in London asked her to create some candles " he could still recall the handmade ones Pilkington once made " to place around the boutique. "I had a very precise brief from (Chanel). I invested GBP800 (US$1,000) and then went to Grasse (on the French Riviera) to source the ingredients. And after lots of back and forth, they said, 'bravo, we will take it'."
Because Pilkington had to create a company to get her pay cheque from Chanel, she sat down with her husband first.
"My husband said, 'Well. You're Linda Jayne, and you live on Ormonde Terrace, so let's just call it Ormonde Jayne'. I said, OK. And that was the beginning of everything."
Even though Pilkington's business was starting to take off with rising demand for her products, she felt that she had no experience in dealing with retailers and departmental stores. "They must have thought I was a blithering idiot. I didn't have the budget to hire people to work for me then. We were still making everything on our own " we still make them all today. I've never had outside investors either. I've used the money that comes in and then if I needed more money, I would remortgage the house. I found it more attractive to have a boutique, where I could still cope. What I really wanted to make were fragrances with ingredients no one else used."
You've been to Hong Kong many times over the past two decades " have you noticed any changes this time?
I've been in love with Hong Kong since I first visited 20 years ago. I always revisit my old stamping ground at each visit: Tea at The Mandarin Oriental, then the Star Ferry across to Kowloon Bay for some shopping in the markets. I love the green jade, the pink jade and all the artefacts for good luck and feng shui. I make a point of looking at the new enterprises each time and visited the splendid St Regis Hotel and then had a memorable dinner in Tai Kwun, the former prison block. The cuisine was comparable to the finest cuisine in the world but you are surrounded by this surreal decor. Another one of my rituals is my hike to the top of The Peak and back, and this time it took me three hours.
Are there any smells that attract you when you walk the streets of Hong Kong?
A post shared by Ormonde Jayne (@ormondejayne) on Jul 11, 2019 at 10:13am PDT
There is lots going on aromatically speaking across Kowloon Bay. I went around a few markets and stocked up on one of my favourite ingredients, osmanthus. We have just launched a blog Gourmande Jayne which combines my love of cooking and fragrance, so I bought dried osmanthus flowers, osmanthus juice and other cakes for me to experiment.
Your point of sale in Parfumerie Tresor is a welcome addition for your many fans in this part of the world. When did you first meet the team here?
A Hong Kong-based beauty editor recommended Parfumerie Tresor as the boutique in Hong Kong that best understands niche perfume houses. When I met her I hadn't been planning to launch in Hong Kong just then, but I kept a copy of the address she had advised. A year later when we started looking, we contacted Parfumerie Tresor and it was love at first sight! And this week I have also been reunited with the lovely beauty editor.
Which of your perfumes did you imagine would lend themselves to the climate of Hong Kong?
Osmanthus is ideally suited to the Hong Kong heat, because it can really cut through that humidity and shine brightly. While I was there, I was informed that Osmanthus was the bestseller. They sold out of Qi, Osmanthus and Champaca in the first week I was there, and had to quickly re-order. There was even a waiting list.
And which are the most popular?
I had only been there three days when we had to quickly re-order Osmanthus, Qi and Champaca after they sold out. There was already a waiting list but new supplies are on their way already.
I had only been there three days when we had to quickly re-order Osmanthus, Qi and Champaca after they sold out!Linda Pilkington
Qi from the Four Corners Range is inspired by this region, how was it received in Perfumerie Tresor?
So well, it sold out. Especially after I was telling them about the philosophy and inspiration behind Qi when I would watch a group of Chinese people practising tai chi early in the morning on my run in Regent's Park (in London). They moved so elegantly, so serenely, and it was that spirit that we have tried to bottle in Qi.
What are you taking back from your time in Hong Kong, in terms of inspiration?
I really want Ormonde Jayne to do well in Hong Kong and be known as a first class fragrance house and was dazzled by the vibrancy and openness of all the wonderful people I met this week in Hong Kong.
I really want Ormonde Jayne to do well in Hong Kong and be known as a first class fragrance house and was dazzled by the vibrancy and openness of all the wonderful people I met this week in Hong KongLinda Pilkington
Oh, and did you know that Pilkington also cooks? With a mind to turn Ormonde Jayne into a lifestyle brand, she has Gourmand Jayne to flesh out her love of cooking!
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