Jo Malone successfully made a comeback to the fragrance and candle business in 2013, and now is full of confidence and ready to take on the world
Words by Sudi Pigott
Jo Malone’s name is synonymous with fragrance. She even goes as far as saying, ‘I see and hear in fragrance, even music translates into a sense of smell. Being dyslexic, smell is my communication.’ Working as a florist by day and a beautician in the evening, Jo’s business took off when the Nutmeg and Ginger bath oil she produced as a thank you gift led to requests for re-orders.
She opened her first Jo Malone boutique in London in 1994, selling to beauty giant Estée Lauder for undisclosed millions five years later. Jo remained with the company until 2006, seeing it expand worldwide. She pioneered the idea of layering different scents on the skin allowing the wearer to create a custom scent.
With her new brand Jo Loves, the entrepreneur is innovating once again. Her first boutique in Chelsea’s Elizabeth Street (opened 2013) is based on her love of cooking, mixing flavours, brassieres and tapas. Customers sit at a beautiful red glass bar with thick pewter top and brass foot rail and order fragrance ‘tapas’ to sample from her menu of 13 fragrances. Shower gel is from a cocktail frother, bath oil is in a shot glass and body lotion out of a cappuccino frother. All are packaged in distinctive Chinese red and black.
Jo Love’s signature fragrance is Pomelo and she always travels with it, spraying it in planes and on the sheets when she arrives in a hotel as well as having it around her home in Chelsea. ‘I always like to have that scent when I walk in.’ It reminds her of one of her favourite holiday destinations, the Parrot Cay resort in the Turks and Caicos.
Her latest innovation is her candle shot studio inspired by time spent in New York. Customers come in for one-on-one consultations in a separate stylish red and mirrored studio. They choose a base candle scent then experiment with a paint brush on a tile, a bit like a canvas to blend in their second shot.
‘Customers really enjoy getting involved in the whole creative process. I like to keep talking about perfume in a language people understand. That’s why I always call my scents after things we can all relate to.’ Jo has designed and had patented a specially shaped candle shot. Fragrances on the ‘menu’ include: mint mojito – ridiculously redolent of Mediterranean holidays, charcoaled lemons as Jo likes to throw them on the barbecue thoughout the summer, mango, fig trees and petitgrain. Each candle costs £75.
Jo doesn’t envisage staying small. Steely, she confides that she sees Jo Loves eventually being global again and employing many thousands of people.
What are the secrets of her success? ‘It is about passion, tenacity, friendship, love and support, though one needs to have drive and hunger too. I am a perfectionist and like every detail to be absolute on pitch.’
Just across from the shop in Elizabeth Street is Oliveto where Jo is often to be found enjoying a coffee and a Sardinian pastry made with ricotta and orange. She remains incredibly fond of the street and nostalgic too. It turns out that her first ever job was in Justin de Blank’s deli, actually on the same site as her present Jo Loves store.
Jo travels incessantly – some months she is only home for four or five days – but she makes the most of her Chelsea neighbourhood and her all-white, minimalist duplex home with her husband Gary, 14 year old son and Yorkshire Terrier when she is back. ‘I do like order and symmetry, but it is actually a very practical home too.’
The Duke of York market is a favourite at the weekend, Jo compares it to a French market stall full of food entrepreneurs and loves to wander around with her family and dog stopping for a blood orange juice and a huge platter of paella.
Another favourite is Luigi’s deli on Fulham Road ‘an absolute treasure trove’ and good for picking up some amazing sauces and luxurious Italian treats like truffle butter, she says. An extremely keen cook, Jo loves shopping for new gadgets for the kitchen at Divertimenti too.
She’s got a nose for great Italian ingredients, fragrance and clearly, for success. It’s hard to fault Jo Malone’s good taste.
42 Elizabeth Street SW1W 9NZ; joloves.com