Chance Encounter

Writer Emma Reinhold | November 11, 2014

Linda Pilkington, founder of Ormonde Jayne, talks about her fragrance brand that almost was not.

There’s something very refreshing about talking to Linda Pilkington, the creator of British perfumery brand Ormonde Jayne. Her elegance, poise and cut glass British accent seem at odds with the incredible honesty she has when talking about her brand, which she freely admits was founded purely thanks to a lucky chance.

“Ormonde Jayne is all down to happenchance,” she explains. “There wasn’t really a moment when I thought I wanted a perfume house, but I’ve had a love of perfumery since childhood. I did what all little girls do and made ‘perfume’ from flower petals and distilled water but it wasn’t until later in life that perfume came back to me.”

Pilkington’s ‘happenchance’ moment was an encounter with a childhood friend who was now working at Chanel. He remembered her ‘perfumes’ and asked her to produce some scented candles for the fashion house’s Bond Street store. The rest is history. ”That’s how it all started. Bruce asked me to make the candles so I went to Grasse and did some research. After six months I showed my work to Madame Sophie, the wife of [interior designer] Manuel Canovas, who also worked at Chanel and she placed an order for 50 candles. From that moment Ormonde Jayne was born.”

The Chanel commission got her noticed and Pilkington’s client list continued to grow with orders from hotelier Anouska Hempel and other high-profile names. Little by little the brand evolved and she invested in equipment and a laboratory. ”It was a slow progress and I actually made room sprays to begin with because I didn’t have a perfume license, so I couldn’t buy the alcohol I needed to make the perfumes. The laboratory enabled me to get the license and take the company forward.”

Another chance meeting put her in touch with the German perfumer, Geza Schoen, who was starting his own fragrance venture that went on to become the multi- award-winning perfume house, Essentric Molecules. “I was very lucky to meet Geza. He needed a laboratory and I had the equipment. In return he gave me his advice, which was the best thing that ever happened to Ormonde Jayne. We are still friends today and I always run formulations by him – his experience and wisdom is priceless.”

Pilkington displays strong work ethos and honesty in everything she does and her input can be seen across every element of the brand. There is a good chance that you could be served by her in one of the beautiful boutiques in London and her pursuit of high standards, luxury and originality is done with the utmost conviction. “I am still serving customers who first came to us 14 years ago when we started. This really brings me the greatest satisfaction,” she enthuses.

She creates and manufactures every fragrance, body lotion and candle thanks to a network of five studios and laboratories in London, and travels extensively to find unique ingredients, fostering relationships with growers around the world, which gives her access to the most prized essential oils. “No expense is spared in ingredient sourcing. We will never be a huge company so we can use smaller suppliers and get those rare ingredients. Our fragrance concentrations are typically higher than most perfume houses – 25 per cent in the eau de parfum and 30 per cent in the extrait – which makes a difference in the quality of the finished product. I think that’s the secret of our success, we dare to do things differently – we were the first perfume house to put oud into a fine fragrance, long before it became the household name it is today.”

I always like to find out things I’ve never studied before so that the fragrance can be as honest and true as possible
~ Linda Pilkington