Vickie Farquharson: trainee manager at Gorilla Perfumery

11 Nov

Everyone has a story. Vickie Farquharson talks about the right on bathbomb and smellies company Lush while working at its very first Gorilla Perfumes store, solely dedicated to fine perfumery, in trendy Camden Passage. Interview by Nicola Baird

Vickie Farquharson: trainee manager at Gorilla choosing the next record to be played. “In Camden Passage you forget the hustle and bustle of London.”

Vickie Farquharson: trainee manager at Gorilla choosing the next record to be played. “In Camden Passage you forget the hustle and bustle of London.”

Death, decay and renewal are not perhaps the names you’d expect to see in a perfumery. But for the innovative thinkers and scent concocters Mark and Simon Constantine the choice made perfect sense. Since Gorilla Perfumes opened on 19 July 2014 in Islington’s Camden Passage, Vickie Farquharson has been part of a team who know the price of what they are selling as well as the name of the person who grew the ingredients, the thinking behind the birth of that little bottle of good smells and how it fits into the company’s values and ethics.

Gorilla sells fragrances that are inspired by art, music and poetry. Unlike perfumes on sale in department stores they have surprising names, such as Breath 0f God and Kerbside Violet, and use raw materials and essential oils which are traceable back to the supplier/source of origin. Choose from a solid 12g perfume or liquids (droppers or spritzers) in sizes 10ml, 30ml, 50ml, 150ml and 200ml.

Gorilla sells fragrances that are inspired by art, music and poetry. Unlike perfumes on sale in department stores they have surprising names, such as Breath 0f God and Kerbside Violet, and use raw materials and essential oils which are traceable back to the supplier/source of origin. Choose from a solid 12g perfume or liquids (droppers or spritzers) in sizes 10ml, 30ml, 50ml, 150ml and 200ml.

“In the shop we have three volumes of perfumes. Each volume is viewed as a vinyl – because music is an influential factor, along with many other variables,” explains Vickie waving at Gorilla’s large record collection, some of it picked up at Flashback Records at 50 Essex Road “and in each volume the perfumes are the tracks.” To help customers understand they are invited to sit in the retro – and comfy – chairs in the shop window and listen to the music as they make their choices. There’s even a booth in which you can read all about the ethical and sustainable buying of materials and oils.

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“I’ve worked for Lush for seven years, at first while I was studying psychology at University in Edinburgh, and I thought how on earth am I going to remember all these products?” says Vickie, 31, who grew up in Dunfermline, Scotland but now she’s working in London and is based in Sydenham.

20151009_123306 (1)

Unisex perfurmes at Gorilla. To help the shop team and customers remember the products you can pick up a comic booklet in the shop called Volume 3: Death, Decay & Renewal which immerses you in the creation stories of the recent perfume releases, eg, “Stayin Alive (hints of candy floss and black pepper) is the lighter side of Death, Decay and Renewal”. The comic book is a collaboration with artist Plastic Crimewave who is also an illustrator and prog rock musician from Chicago.

Vickie doesn’t just know the names now, she’s also able to help customers decide between a huge range of perfumes including eponymously named Kerbside Violet, Death & Decay (smell the lillies), Breath of God (deep cedarwood) and The Smell of Weather Turning.

“The Smell of Weather Turning takes me back to being a child again on holiday and getting dragged to the West Coast islands in Scotland and made to wear wax jackets and Wellington boots,” says Vickie with a grin. “It reminds me of when we went to Mull and stayed at Calgary Bay. It’s the smell after a thunder storm but makes me think of the influence of climate change too.”

For a moment Vickie, PR Hollye and myself are silent – there’s only the sound of the stylus clicking as the record ends. Vickie jumps up and puts on a classic, Elton John, and continues…

“Our perfumes deserve a space like the Gorilla store with reclaimed materials (such as the parquet floors, creative and comfortable furnishings (retro chairs and collaborative art pieces) and music (refurbished vinyl player) because… there’s so much to talk about – and it’s an emotional journey. The conversations we have with customers you might not have anywhere else. People can cry! We offer a comfortable space where you can have a proper human conversation.”

Vickie Farquharson: “Camden Passage is like a family. We all help each other out. I love the amazing cards at the Japanese Art Gallery – there’s such a range, from Manga to Traditional.

Vickie Farquharson: “Camden Passage is like a family. We all help each other out. I love the amazing cards at the Japanese Art Gallery – there’s such a range, from Manga to Traditional.

What does Vickie Farquharson like doing in Islington?

20151009_124134 (2)BREAKFAST: I go to Appestat– owned by Anika and Sali. They often have art shows/exhibitions and occasionally have live music but mostly I pick up a soya latte before work. They also do amazing teas and salted caramel brownies.

LUNCH: I highly recommend the cheese toasties with chilli jam at Pistachio and Pickle (The Dairy, 6 Camden Passage). A fine selection of cheeses and condiments are on offer.

20151009_123851TREATS: Kimantra Spa next door has just celebrated its 10 year birthday. And Moss, the bag shop, has been here 10 years too (108 Islington High Street). Gorilla is one of the new kids in Camden Passage.”

PUBS: I love the Old Queen’s Head at 44 Essex Road. It’s really comfy with vintage décor. I like to go to the cinema nights. It’s nice to have somewhere affordable to go. I sometimes go to the Duke of York, 82 Islington High Street.

Gorilla began as a six month pop up in Shoreditch situated in Red Gallery (Dec 2012-June 2013) before settling in Camden Passage, just opposite Penhaligons.

Gorilla began as a six month pop up in Shoreditch situated in Red Gallery (Dec 2012-June 2013) before settling in Camden Passage, just opposite Penhaligons.

Once you’ve been introduced to Lush (and find out they are more than just a cosmetics brand) you may be hooked too. Vickie’s family love the Lush products they get as gifts. Vickie reckons she “can’t go a day without Eau Roma Water facial toner which has got rose oil in it and allows my skin to breathe and I always carry enchanted eye cream. And my boyfriend who is a graffiti artist uses The Mechanic soap to rid his hands of paint and dirt (the only thing that has worked in a long time). Also Kalamazoo beard and face wash is a favourite.

Vickie is so enthusiastic that she jokes working for Lush and Gorilla “can almost be viewed as a cult”, but this cult of no-testing on animals and sustainable sourcing is a goodie. And the staff and shop are a lovely addition to Camden Passage.

“We were the new kids on the block,” says Vickie, “so when we moved in we went round to the nearby shops and gave them all a gift of perfumes and comic book as we introduced ourselves. We want people to experience more than the bathbomb – to understand the company’s ethics and the stories behind the products. “It’s very different from the experience people get in department stores” adds Vickie. She’s absolutely right – if you haven’t yet been into Gorilla take a friend and go and have a chat with the staff about the different perfumes.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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