Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ormonde Jayne - A Perfume Portrait

Disclosure - We received PR samples from Ormonde Jayne

If you love perfume, you'll have definitely heard of Ormonde Jayne. It's a brand whose stature far exceeds its size. A byword for high-quality, pioneering perfumery, but also a small enterprise with a dedicated team of hands-on staff manning a lab-studio and two stores, plus a counter in Harrods. I was invited to experience a Perfume Portrait with the founder and head perfumer, Linda Pilkington, at the first Ormonde Jayne shop in New Bond Street, which sits in a timeless arcade full of beautiful glass shopfronts.

On entering the shop, I was instantly struck by the gorgeous interior design. Dark, lacquered blocks formed a kind of geometric outcropping of shelves reaching up to the ceiling. Bright mandarin-orange boxes and smoked mirrors created a bewitching mix of colour and texture. And dotted around this sleek landscape were the bottles, tubes and candles that form the body of Linda Pilkington's work.

Linda arrived via a spiral staircase from the upper floor and welcomed me - she was charming, vivacious and elfin, in a black suit and high heels. We quickly began chatting about shoes (like me, she's petite in height, so we had an instant point of commonality). Here she is;

I'd arranged to have a Perfume Portrait, one of Ormonde Jayne's complimentary services for customers. However, Linda was so generous with her time that I ended up with the unexpected gift of a much more complete picture of Ormonde Jayne's history and philosophy.

Linda told me how she began her perfume journey as a hobbyist. She was mentored and encouraged by a close friend who recognised her talent with scent and put her in touch with Chanel, where she began to create scents on a freelance basis. (This was when the name "Ormonde Jayne" came into being - it was devised from  her middle name and the name of her street when she first registered herself for business).

From that starting point, she built up her brand and her range slowly and deliberately, acquiring the New Bond Street premises first, and only later branching out to Harrods and most recently the Sloane Square store, which opened in November 2010. The Ormonde Jayne success story is a slow steady rise, rather than a meteoric ascent, thanks to Linda's self-sufficient resourcefulness. She has kept her hands on the wheel throughout the journey, resisting the route of buy-outs and investments that might have prompted the brand to get bigger in quicker, more unpredictable ways.

Linda recognises the strength of her brand, of course, and plans are afoot to grow Ormonde Jayne into Europe through a handpicked selection of boutiques at some point in the future. The US market is somewhere on the horizon too, but not in the immediate term. Linda's also looking at expanding the brand's online presence at www.ormondejayne.com.

Meanwhile, the focus is on quality and care. Everything Ormonde Jayne creates is made at the London studio where candles are poured, oils distilled, perfumes bottled and even powder puffs (for the scented gold powders) hand-sewn. Linda is palpably a craftswoman and takes pleasure in every part of the Ormonde Jayne enterprise, from combing the globe for the finest ingredients to serving customers and arranging stock in the shop.

Her hands-on role has brought her into direct contact with some rather surprised competitors - scouting parties from large companies and fragrance houses who call or come into the store have found themselves face to face with the nose whose creations they're looking to crib from. Linda's amused, but somewhat frustrated that her pioneering ideas have been taken and run with by better known competitors. When she started using Champaca and oud in her fragrances, nobody else would have dreamed of doing so. A few years down the line and Ormonde Jayne's forerunning Champaca scent is overshadowed by subsequent champaca renditions from larger houses. She recognises that it's a compliment of sorts, but is understandably a little uneasy about it too. This phenomenon of competitor eclipse is one thing she hopes to leave behind as Ormonde Jayne grows bigger.

Whatever the competition may have picked up on in the past, there are sure to be plenty more original ideas yet to come from Ormonde Jayne. Linda's not looking at expanding her range at present, but is full of ideas about how to bring the brand to life and introduce more people to the world of Ormonde Jayne.

The Perfume Portrait is a case in point - a highly personal way for customers to discover which individual ingredients appeal to them and arrive at the Ormonde Jayne scent that fits them best. After a discussion of his or her favourite perfumes, likes and dislikes, the sitter is asked to sniff perfumed oils from seven fragrance families - hesperidic (lime, bergamot and mandarin), delicate floral (orris, freesia and frangipani), intense floral (champaca, tiare and sambac), balsamic (incense, labdanum, tolu) oriental (tonka, vanilla and pimento), woody (cedar, vetiver and hemlock) and atmospheric (Ambroxan, pink pepper and moss). A simple gut-feeling "yes" or "no" is given for each one, revealing tastes and preferences that narrow down the selection from the Ormonde Jayne line.

Then two candidate perfumes are sprayed (in my case Ormonde Woman and Orris Noir), one on each arm. Linda stressed the importance of letting fragrances settle on the skin when you try them. Alcohol needs to evaporate and the head notes need to disperse before you can tell if you really like the "soul" of the perfume. After sitting with both smells for a while, a final choice emerges. For me (though it was tough to choose) Ormonde Woman came out on top. I suspect I'll be back for Orris Noir another time. Each Perfume Portrait is recorded and kept on file so that customers can refer loved ones to the store when buying gifts.

Those in London can arrange a Perfume Portrait by phone (0207 499 1100 for Old Bond St branch), or simply arrive at the store and request one. The Sloane Square branch has a bench for up to three people to enjoy a Perfume Portrait together. It would be a lovely experience to share.

If you're not in London and would like an introduction to Ormonde Jayne, I would highly recommend the Discovery Set. It contains 12x2ml spray vials of all the Ormonde Jayne eau de parfums; Champaca, Sampaquita, Tolu, Frangipani, Ormonde Woman, Osmanthus, Tiare, Ta'if, Orris Noir and the three scents for men - Zizan, Isfarkand and Ormonde Man. It comes in a gorgeous slide-out presentation box with a booklet introducing each scent, and can be shipped free anywhere in the world for £44. I have one of these and I love  it - I'm a sucker for sets and miniatures and this is like a tiny treasure-trove of scents to dip into each day.

NB You can currently benefit from free worldwide postage at Ormonde Jayne until 14 February 2011.


1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of this, personalised perfume sounds wonderful! But I'm too shy :P


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