Tell us a bit about your association with the German perfumer Geza Schoen (of Escentric Molecules fame)
We met through a mutual friend, at the time he was at Harmann and Reimer (now Symrise) and was posted here from Germany. He wanted to break free from the work that he was doing and do his own thing, but that was difficult for him to do. It was a good partnership - I had all the equipment – crimping machines etc at my studio, I also had alcohol license, which is hard to get. But all I had was a series of formulas mostly from the Poucher book (AW Poucher, Perfumes Cosmetics and Soaps)
At that time he lived round the corner from the studio so it was perfect, he was always there. We got on very well even though we’re so different.
Did you launch Molecules from your studio?
He was busy doing molecules, he started it from there, but it went so mega so quick that we couldn't produce it from there any more. The quantities of materials that arrived just kept getting bigger and bigger - some of the drums were bigger than me! So, eventually I found somewhere for him to take the production.
Geza has created the new line Four Corners of the Earth with you – do you have similar tastes and styles?
Geza and I are quite different, but we get on very well - he's quite minimalist - he lives in a glass box at the top of a house in Berlin - if he wants to go to his studio he skate-boards down to the bottom.
My house is very opulent - I live in a Nash 1820s property it’s all rich with brocade, 11 chimneys. I’m the complete opposite to him: I'm all chandeliers and hand-painted wallpaper, my bathroom has gold mirrors, his is all white. He loves tuna fish and salad for every meal, I’m more coq au vin and crème brulé. He does cool very well, I do opulence very well - were different but we get on very well. If you see his house and my house, my life and his life, but we click – he comes over to my house and is very sweet with the children. We've always had a good laugh and we've helped each other a lot.
You’re a great traveller, how does that inspire your perfumes – you were an early adopter when it came to oudh, were you not?
As you know Ormonde Jayne has always been about sourcing unusual ingredients. On one occasion I came back from my travels and decided I wanted to use oudh - it comes from Northern Thailand. In Bangkok, there is a road called Na Na, it's where all the oudh traders are (the doors are all locked), they have everything there, right down from little attars to big bags of wood - none of it is wasted.
For me there was no expense spared - it doesn't matter to me what a formulation costs. No one was using it at the time –but a little bit of oudh ended up in Ormonde Man.
Sometimes people say they are selling the most expensive perfume in the world, but I know what my formulas cost… (the Four Corners formulas are 4 or 5 times more expensive than the main range) In a way, I hit upon something by accident – after that people were then starting to use oudh to attract the Middle Eastern market. People would come in to buy 50 bottes ... they would say: 'I've got lots of cousins at home'. If I say I've got 10 bottles then they buy ten, if I say I have 60 they have 60.
After I did it, you also start to see a lot of Champaca, Tiares, Ta'ifs now, things which I had already produced. In the end Givaudan and IFF were coming to us and saying ‘we want something like Ormonde Jayne’.
What was the inspiration for the Four Corners of The Earth collection?
I was on a plane coming back from New York, and I was stuck with no reading material. The man next to me offered me his Wall Street Journal – as you can imagine I read it cover to cover! It was all about the new, emerging areas like India, China, Brazil and the former Soviet Union.
It wasn’t possible for me to travel to all those places (I have got a family so it’s not so easy to take off), so I thought, I'm going to go to Chinatown in London and check out the ambiance, to see what I find. I went to the super maket, to restaurants, street markets. It’s quite amazing, you could be in China! There was lots of tea, osmanthus, crispy pears. I could actually get the ambiance. Then I went to the top of Primose Hill and watched people doing Thai chi – Chi/ Qi - means the ‘breath of life’ and it’s a word they use in everyday language.
Then I thought I could go to Brick Lane to learn about Asia, then I went to the Hindu temple at Willesden.
Then I thought, the four corners of the earth is here in London! We have a lot of Brazilians who live and work in London who come into the shop and my husband also lives and works in Russia a lot of the time. So the four corners of the earth is reflected in London.
So, how do you take into consideration the different tastes round the world?
The Chinese - particularly older people, don't like to wear perfume - has to be very light, a very short formula, with tea in it and osmanthus. We’ve had some very good reactions to Qi, with people saying “It reminds me of home.”
I did live in South America for some time on a ranch in Paraguay (we kept soya and milking cows). We called the new fragrance, ‘Montabaco’- when you go there, it’s quite a thing when you see tobacco leaves growing always high up on a slope – it’s a play on the word mountain and tobacco.
Another one is called, Nawab of Oudh. This has a high percentage of naturals – with much more oudh than Ormonde man.
The last one is called Tsarina. My husband lives and works in Moscow, we have lots of Russian friends, they wouldn't dream of going out without being fully coiffed, so ultimately it had to be something for Russian women to love.
How does this affect your main Ormonde Jayne line?
I've got 12 perfumes there, they're all brilliant, I don't want to have too many, otherwise it can be so confusing. It’s fine for Guerlain - they have lots – but then they've been going for a couple of hundred years!
Does this mean you are going to expand?
Yes, but I think we can do just as well with 50 or 60 really good doors throughout the world. It's always going to be controlled. If you do it well you can control the production, and you can still get to know your customers. If there is any kind of complaint - you can still deal with it. For Ormonde Jayne, customer service has always been very important – if people aren’t happy, we ring them up to ask why, even on a Sunday on a Blackberry I answer them and tell them things like, their parcel has been posted and is waiting for delivery...
Then they say “Oh my God!”, because they can’t believe it’s me, and I say, “you're my customer, I want to keep my customers happy”. If you put in a complaint, I want to say ‘what's up? I want to help you' – If you have 7,000 doors you can't do that.
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top : air note, orange absolute, bergamot, juniper, clary sage,cardamom.
sandalwood, moss, tonka, ambergris.
NAWAB OF OUDH
top : green lemon blossom, neroli, freesia.
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