Jo Malone is a fragrance legend, the woman who founded both the Jo Malone brand and Jo Loves, scents that define key moments in so many women’s lives. Yesterday she was in Birmingham for a special audience at the City’s beautiful Town Hall. She talked about her life, it’s ups and downs and of course, she chatted all about her extraordinary fragrance journey.
Here are some of the highlights of her talk.
About her Mother
“…My mum taught me a love of beauty…”
“I appreciated the fragrances my mother wore – Joy by Jean Patou, Je Reviens by Worth. My father wore Eau Sauvage by Dior. They opened up a world of luxury from an early age despite living in a council house.”
” Mum went to work at Revlon. I met Madame Lubatti (blonde, tall, always wearing fishnets, 80 years old.) Mum was a facialist so I would spend time in the lab. I couldn’t read the labels on the bottles, but could recognise the smells and the scents of the ingredients. It was like my nose was learning a language.”
“From Madame Lubatti I learned that if you can’t do something brilliantly, don’t do it at all.’
Jo was one of London’s most important facialists with clients including Sarah Ferguson.
“Skincare was my business, fragrance was my hobby.”
On setting up Jo Malone
“I was literally doing thousands of orders in my kitchen.”
“We decided we would get a shop and give it a year to make a success. We opened the first shop on Walton Street. Within a month it was working and was established. We made our first million within our first year.”
Two years in the company was sold to Estee Lauder, with Jo staying on to continue her role in the business – the creation of new fragrance and expansion of the store, but then Joe was diagnosed with cancer.
On breast cancer
“2 years into Jo Malone I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I was treated in the US, I thought I would be there for maybe 5 days, I was actually there for a year. When I returned to work I was involved in the opening of a new store on Madison Avenue, but I felt that this wasn’t me anymore, I was detached from the company and the stores, even my sense of smell had been affected by the chemo.”
Jo decided to leave Jo Malone completely, and was then not allowed to work in the cosmetic industry for five years (aka the golden handcuffs).
On leaving Jo Malone
“I never anticipated the love I would feel for the cosmetic industry – making fragrance is the only thing I can do. Didn’t realise how hard it would be to leave the beauty industry for five years – just how much I would miss it.”
“In five years of not creating I lost a part of who I was. The only way to find Jo again was through creating fragrance.”
On creating Jo Loves
“Building a second brand was the hardest thing I have ever done.”
“The two brands are different parts of my life. Jo Malone was who I was in my twenties, Jo Loves is who I am now. I love both equally.”
On returning to Elizabeth Street
16 years old, I had my first job in a florist in Elizabeth Street, and then worked in a Deli on Elizabeth Street, got the sack from both. 49 years old, looking for a home for Jo Loves and find the perfect place on Elizabeth Street. That shop is a jewel, I feel like I’m home. Customers love the tapas bar for the nose, getting a sense of smell and fragrance.”
Any big regrets?
“I turn a page every single day. I do regret some things I’ve said, I am hot tempered. But I don’t regret life changing decisions.”
“Two favourites. Lime, basil and mandarin, I used to call it my pension fund. Now I love Pomelo, I feel safe when I smell that smell, my second chance.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as I am right now.”