Most people, at some point in their lives, have welcomed a bit of Jo Malone into their lives. Be it a candle, a bottle of luxury bath oil or a fragrance like her legendary Pomegranate Noir. Ever since she and her husband Gary, 60, launched her namesake brand in 1994, which five years later was sold to Estée Lauder, before starting the globally successful Jo Loves, Jo has — in her own words — been “the gatekeeper of scent memories”.
Here, she shares the festive scents she holds most dear, plus the challenges her business Jo Loves has faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jo, what smell holds the fondest memory for you?
Christmas trees. I grew up in a two-up, two-down with no central heating but we always had a real Christmas tree and now, as a mum, I always do too. At Christmas, I always fill the house with our Christmas Trees room spray. It’s the smell of everything you imagine Christmas is about — alpine trees, snow, the smell on Christmas morning when you come down and the stockings are filled. Magical!
After battling cancer, do you feel encouraged that you can survive the worst again, like during a pandemic like Covid-19?
The survival instinct is the same. When I got cancer, my mindset was, ‘Today we survived’ and I’ve done everything to survive. I say to myself every day, ‘This is not forever’ and when you know it’s not forever, you’re able to take one more day of courage. We have to carry on and keep pushing.
How did you keep busy when your Jo Loves in London’s Belgravia store was closed?
I’ve got to be honest — I’ve never worked so hard in all my life. As we went into lockdown, we were getting ready to relaunch our website and my sitting room became my TV studio, my dining room was my laboratory and the sitting room in my bedroom the PR area. My son [Josh, 19] was home from Harvard and my husband, who does all the figures and legal work, took whatever room was available!
During lockdown, were you worried about the future of Jo Loves?
Of course. I don’t think anybody wasn’t worried about the future of their company. We had two words at the beginning of lockdown — lean and agile — and we did both of those things with bells on. We looked at what we didn’t need and took it straight out, [like] fancy windows. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what the future holds. Could we lose everything? Who knows. But today we survived.
What was the hardest part of not working for five years after leaving the Estée Lauder board of directors in 2011?
The five years in lockout — and rightly so because I’d been paid a lot of money — was the most unhappy time of my life and it was at that moment that anxiety entered my life. When I had cancer, I knew what I was fighting, but [during] this void, this nothing, I thought, ‘What do I do with my thoughts?’ I wasn’t allowed to create. It took my voice, my dreams, my adventures and I was left holding money, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my life back. I tried to find other things to do, but nothing made me feel on top of the world. I feel on the highest mountain when I’m creating fragrance. There’s nothing like it.
You’re almost 57. Any bucket list goals or ambitions before you hit 60?
I still feel in my thirties! I have the energy and certainly have a real hunger for life. During lockdown we built two other concepts in our business, which we may launch in the coming years. I’d love to see Jo Loves go around the world and to see my son totally fulfilled in his life, too.
Read the rest of our interview with Jo in our brand new December issue – on sale now!