It was 1980
and I was in New York for a month with my French
Rimmel embossed original 1900 perfume and
toiletries label collection. I had created a
presentation book with my samples as I held a
small stock having bought them direct from the
elderly family owners in Paris.
The labels were stunningly beautiful in mint
condition. Little works of art. Art Nouveau
designs embossed, chromolithography depicting
women and floral wavy designs so typical of the
I was the house guest of Jean Feigenbaum a large
lonely Jewish NewYorker I had befriended when she
came on her biannual antique buying trip to
London for her eclectic shop in a New Jersey
antique Mall. Jean shuffled around Portobello
market where I had a stand, on very swollen
ankles carrying her immense weight but she had a
generous heart of gold and offered me a bed on my
first business trip to get me going in unknown
Jean was keen for me to do well and very
encouraging having years of experience selling
ice to the Eskimos! I told her I had a contact at
Eli Lilly, the global pharmaceutical company but
found out they were not interested in my glorious
Ephemera. However, the contact there gave me the
name of the marketing manager at Revlon, George
I rang, got an appointment and met the fatherly
George but my labels were not suitable for Revlon
either. I returned dolefully to motherly Jean who
wanted to know how my days went. She immediately
brought me the thick Yellow Pages. In fact she
slammed it down on the kitchen table.
Why stop at Revlon? Call all the big
companies and get the names of the advertising
and marketing directors! Estée Lauder, Coty,
LOreal, Max Factor etc. She shouted at me
as if she were speaking to the daughter she had
never had. A real larger than life dominant
Commanded, I picked up the phone and dialled with
a rush of excitement and energy with dominant
Jean sitting across the kitchen table watching
Im Jilliana Ranicar-Breese from
London and Paris! Said I.
The ruse worked using George Buckleys name
saying he had suggested I call Mr X. Bla bla. I
had the gift of the gab too. In America the door
is always open to opportunity and risk taking,
especially to a well spoken British voice!
I met several advertising executives but still no
sales. No one had seen such beautiful little
pieces of art but did not have the foresight as
to how they could be exploited. Finally someone
suggested Avon. Avon! I had not thought of such a
Ding Dong Company. I believed my labels had to
find the right home because they were so
beautiful and sophisticated. Far too posh for
Ding Dong Avon!
I called and made an appointment with the
marketing director. On arrival I was ushered into
the large board room and told to wait. And wait I
did. No one came. My self confidence was
dwindling, Jilliana was not used to being kept
waiting! Finally a smiling 40-something good
looking man named Perry Zompa walked in and shook
my hand. He watched with a surprised expression
as I opened my sample book to give him my well
rehearsed spiele. He looked puzzled but
You mean youre not here for the
Seeing my crest-fallen face, he perked up
apologising profusely for the error. Perry Zompa
was only the assistant advertising and marketing
manager. His boss was too busy to see an
Avon will be 100 years old in 1986. It was
originally the California Perfume Company (CPC)
founded in 1886. He announced, proud of his
companys heritage. Thankfully he gave me a
substantial order saying that he would be
organising a big centenary exhibition and my
labels would be certainly used as inspirational
artwork for their packaging.
Thank you so much for stopping by.
Apologies for the interview error, Jilliana.
He said, shaking my hand firmly with his
inevitable cosmetic American smile.
Perry Zompa, a name to remember, turned a
negative into a positive and I felt on top of the
world that day.
New York, New York!
in Brighton at home in March 2019.
Wikipedia. Avon history.
Reuters. Timeline key dates in Avons
Google. The Ding Dong Avon advertising campaign.
Google. Rimmel London - brand history.