The New Philosophers Series: Palma Cafolla Founder of Zingaro Floral & Perfumery
Palma Cafolla: Zingaro Floral & Perfumery … and good witch.
To many, Palma is the beautiful Irish girl with the magical shop on Lower Johnson—but to know her is to know an almost mystical soul. “Zingaro,” after all, means Gypsy in Italian.
Palma dreamt of bringing scent to life from her early years as a young floral designer in London, England. Her daily work was filled with wondrous florals, yet nothing in the perfume world seemed to capture them; perfumes felt linear and flat in comparison to living flora. This inspired her time in Grasse, France where she trained as a traditional perfumer, aiming to bottle botany in its natural complexity.
Many years, flower stores, and two children later, Palma woke up in Saskatoon on an entirely new adventure. With her husband, Shane, she spent more than 8 years developing her perfume brand Zingaro. It was the solitude of the prairies that allowed her the space and peace to cultivate her craft.
Feeling her time in Saskatchewan was coming to a close, she decided to move to Victoria. She packed a bag, her perfumes, and her expectations, and left Saskatoon on a snowy February day. Shane met her at the Victoria airport, and brought her first to a westcoast forest.
“I thought I had died and gone to heaven—it was the most beautiful place I had seen … and smelt!”
A stroll downtown later that same week brought her to 561 Johnson Street—the enchanting and historic storefront of her dreams. Palma and Shane agreed that any obstacle to signing a lease would be the signal that it wasn’t meant to be (spoiler: it was entirely smooth sailing). Zingaro has grown quickly into its bustling Johnson Street location. Palma reflects on how the collection of largely independent shops on LoJo have come to lean into and support each other in all aspects of business. Reminiscent of her former shop in Palma’s hometown of Dublin, Zingaro is the realisation of a lifelong dream, and the couple greets every morning with gratitude. “What a gift. This is truly a love story.”
Palma finds meaningful connection with customers through her work in scent and plants, and celebrates generational milestones alongside them. “I love that we get to share happy times and the sad ones—this is what brings the solid bonds with our customers. I remember, when we had our store in Dublin, we would get to do the weddings, then the christenings, then the birthdays and graduations, and before you knew it, we would be doing the wedding flowers of the children. It’s such a beautiful process, which we are looking forward to building with the community here in Victoria.” The unexpected perfect imperfection of nature is captured in the structure and surprise of her arrangements: the life cycle of flora mimicking that of her patrons.
Since walking through the forest on that first fateful day in Victoria, Palma reflects that beauty has always overwhelmed her; she finds and feels it everywhere.
“I get lost in branches and moss and soil—before I even smell the flowers! I squirrel through nature everyday. To pinpoint beauty, for me … it’s probably best to say that beauty is presented to us in many forms—we just have to open our eyes and our senses to truly know it.”
Listening to Palma describe her perfuming is spellbinding: she creates sensory experiences that are near magical. She’ll describe how olfactory elements interact— foliage and soil decomposing give depth to and layer mystery on the scent of flowers. In floral design, she again incorporates the unexpected and will encourage you to intentionally listen for Mother Nature as you take in her arrangements— jagged branches, soft, wilting petals, spongy mosses— “…nothing she gives us should be manipulated—her colour palette is made by the gods.”
Philosophy had the privilege of working with Palma and Zingaro to create Phi and Lux, the signature scents our patients experience when they come through our doors. Our challenge was to create scent memory—associations our patients would come to know and love, and that would signal positive experiences of self care. They needed to be universally appealing, soft and inoffensive, yet unique and layered.
“Tara and Bri inspired me to overstep what was predictable and create the most interesting, complex compositions. Their stories built the fragrances. We use the world’s finest Rose de Mai from Grasse, France, and the old, biblical oil of Labdanum in Phi to give mystery. They are an intoxicating blend together—sensual and dark. Then, if that was not enough, we went to the next level and broke all boundaries with the bright, yellow clusters of Mimosa for Lux. There are no words to describe what it’s like to breathe it in—it’s like a field trip to Italy and France in one bottle! If I might say so, this was an amazing collaboration. These blends are truly divine.”
The years have taught Palma much about what it means to live out one’s purpose. Living here, and being at her floral perfumery everyday, invoke these words by Elsie De Wolfe: “I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” Few would disagree that Palma is doing just that.
On behalf of all of Victoria, Palma, we’re so happy you laid roots here. We hope the scents of our forests inspire you forever.