Jo Malone’s name is perhaps one of the most recognised in the world, her namesake fragrance brand Jo Malone London has become one of the world’s most loved beauty brands by fans all over the globe.
Jo began creating scented products in the kitchen of her London home before word spread and one thing led to another. Eventually, Jo sold her company to Estée Lauder Companies in 1999. She remained Creative Director until she left in 2006. Knowing that her passion for fragrance would never leave her, in 2011 Jo founded Jo Loves. Jo Loves was to be an innovative new brand whose collections would include scents, bath care, body care and candles inspired by the memories and moments in Jo’s life that she loves.
She opened her first store in 2013 and while the brand remains niche, its slow and steady growth now sees the red dot logo recognised all around the world. But now, Jo believes it is time to accelerate that growth. With a successful business running in the United Kingdom, Jo has decided to focus on the Middle East, Asia and Africa for further development of the brand. She decided to move to Dubai to follow her dreams of creating another billion-dollar company. Her determination and ambition are truly inspiring and her business ethic leaves us with no doubt that she will achieve her goals. Meeting Jo at the recent Retail Summit we took the chance to find out more.
Tell us what you are currently working on and what is in the pipeline for you this year.
I am actually now living here in Dubai! My husband and I made the decision six months ago and we are now residents here in Dubai. I have set up my company here and I am planning to further the presence of Jo Loves on this side of the world. We now have a team in the UK and a team here so we can manage both areas. Last week we were in Korea where we were opening new stores, we were in South Africa the week before, and next week we will be in Oman and Kuwait. Jo Loves is growing rapidly, we have momentum now and once you have that in a business you have to go with it because if you don’t, you miss the opportunity and that is not something I want to do. I have always wanted to create another global brand, this is my opportunity, and in Dubai, there is SO much opportunity. I am so glad I’m here, I wake up with a smile on my face every day and know that my dream of building Jo Loves into a global, billion-dollar company again is going to happen. And it’s something that I think would take much longer to happen if I stayed at home in the UK.
I have a good team in the UK that knows the custodians of the brand very well and therefore, for the first time, I have the freedom to be able to do this. I’ve called it my business gap year, and I’m going off to find adventures. I feel the most creative I’ve ever felt, and I love the storytelling I’m working on. I found myself the most amazing studio here in Dubai and I thought ‘I’m going to go and give it a go!’
What are the next steps for Jo Loves now you’re here in the Middle East?
We dipped our toe in the market here and we could see there was an appetite, but the brand wasn’t old enough to hold its own in department stores, we needed to have standalone stores to introduce the full universe of the brand. I wanted to have my own stores with tapas bars, mocktail bars, and paint studios, you name it we’re going to do it! I want people to understand the brand from my perspective and all the things that go with it. I’ve got so many creative ideas that I want to put into practice and a lot of them we have already done beautifully in Korea, so I want to bring a lot of that to the Middle East. I’m here at the Retail Summit because I know there are many people here who can make these dreams happen, and I can make their dreams happen too! It’s a wonderful opportunity.
How would you describe the universe of Jo Loves?
She is full of creativity, passion and resilience. My mission is to change the world with the power of fragrance and I want to build a billion-dollar company again. It was never about creating 100 bottles and giving them away, but bringing the integrity of my creativity. There are so many things I want to do: I’d love to build a hotel that was completely sense-orientated, and I want to create a pomelo-scented beach – there are so many amazing ideas and I think it is possible here!
When I visited the Museum of the Future, I thought ‘This is where I want to be’. And actually, as I came out of the museum I saw a quote that read ‘We shall plant the trees so the next generation can enjoy the shade.’ And actually, that’s my spirit. I want to see the next generation not have to be in the heat of the sun like we did and enjoy that shade for them to build for the generation after them.
You have been in the business for more than 25 years – how do you think the fragrance industry has changed over the past two decades?
I think one of the biggest moments for beauty and fragrance, was when the world came to a halt with COVID because we all went back into our four walls, our homes became our universe – we couldn’t travel, we couldn’t see our families – it was so hard. But fragrance became the gatekeeper of scent memories. Smelling our fragrances reminded us of better moments in life or those we love, and it took us back to those moments. Now thanks to the help of amazing scientists and doctors we were able to come out of the pandemic, that appetite for fragrance hasn’t disappeared, in fact, it’s increased. I don’t think we will ever again see fragrance in the same way. It’s so much more than just a bottle of fragrance and with it, you can paint your world with memories.
I have created a new concept titled “Paint Your Fragrance” which invites people to tell me a story or give me some words and I recreate it for them in five notes. For example, earlier today someone talked about being in Greece, sitting on the beach, so I created the blue sky with cobalt pachouli, I created the beach with pomelo, and then I scented her with this amazing orange note that I’ve just created in the last couple of weeks. When I spoke about this concept today I could see the whole room was fascinated. I have given myself a year to create 101 notes, and at the end of this year, I’ll be able to tell almost any story I’m given in fragrant notes. This is something we also hope to roll out as part of the brand.
What do you think is the secret to creating a brand that will stand the test of time?
You have to be ahead of the game. You have to be the one finding the vision and bringing it home. Many people go through the process of asking the consumer what they want and then creating it. I don’t believe in this. I believe that the consumer is a huge part of the relationship and hearing their voice is important, but the job of creating the future of the brand is that of the brand itself. And then we lead the consumer. If you look at fashion or music for example and focus on those who have been world changers, this is what they have done. Take The Beatles for example, when they first came on the scene, they were doing something so incredibly different. Then you look at Adele, she turned everything on its head. It’s about leading people into your vision. Taking them down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, showing them this world and allowing them to realise this is what they want or need. There are so many different appetites, and if we tried to consider every single voice we would never get anywhere. You have to find the voice of your brand. I know my brand so well. I know where she needs to go and what she’s capable of doing, and it’s far more than what anyone else sees. But it’s my job to make sure that the future of this brand is global and take us to the next level. I have to do that by going out and finding inspiration, meeting creative people, and doing collaborations. I learn so much from all of this and it helps me to grow. If you’re not threatened by someone else’s creativity which I’ve never been, and you believe in your own, then find your own path. Even if you’re the only one that believes in it, follow it, because you never know where it will lead. Failure is part of success and none of us is guaranteed success, but I definitely fight for it. I fight to be heard, I fight for my creativity. Some days it’s hard, but no one has a perfect day every day.
What’s the biggest challenge you face today?
Growth. It’s the same problem that many people will have. I know how to do it, and I know there is a market for it, but the growth needs to be funded. I own 100 per cent of this business, I’ve never borrowed any money, I put the money that I sold from the last company into this one, and now it’s ready to go again. So I think the biggest challenge is figuring out how we get it out there. The world is moving too fast for us to take our time, and I want the company to grow for me to fulfil all the other dreams and aspirations that I have. But this brand is about creativity, we could do anything, we could take the sense of smell and change the world in any way we want to.
In terms of retail what is the strategy you are adopting with Jo Loves where do you see most of your success?
We are beginning with bricks and mortar stores, partnering with people that have very similar values and see the potential in the brand and working with the right distributors. We want to work with people that have that same entrepreneurial spirit that we have within the company.
Where does ecommerce fit into your strategy?
We have a whole team focusing on ecommerce. I have to say we are still a small brand, and the world thought we were bigger than we were, so we had to have a much bigger ecommerce team and the team that we have are doing an amazing job. But that sector is moving so fast, so again ecommerce is not a destination it’s a moving target, and just when you think you’ve got there, you’ve got to start all over again. We learnt a lot during the pandemic, it wasn’t just about managing the situation, we also had to ensure that we could deliver the product quantities. So again that brings us back to growth. Growth is wonderful, but if you can’t keep up with the pace, it either backfires or slows you down. Once you find that pace you need to keep going.
How do you keep going when it becomes too much?
I have days when I cry. Not so many recently because I just see so many things that I want to do and be part of. Although I’m a very public person in lots of ways, I’m a very private person and to get over something I’ll surround myself with fragrances or sit under the trees in nature. I dream and wander in nature and I tell myself ‘it will pass’ and it always does. When I have a creative block I usually go and sit close to the water and the idea will just come to me.
What is your perfect mix of notes when you create a fragrance?
I love playing! I love vetiver, I love orange blossom, I love fig, actually, I love fig and vetiver together, and I’ve fallen in love with Oud and I never thought I would! I see all of the ingredients as characters.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
For a man to discover new oceans he must first have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
What’s a message you would send to our readers?
Look out for the red dot! The red dot of Jo Loves is my fingerprint and you’re going to see a lot of it around the Middle East. Red for me means action and that is what we are doing. I share my story a lot and I think people appreciate the happiness but also the cracks in my story. I talk a lot about being diagnosed with cancer and given nine months to live and look at me now. There are so many parts of me that people don’t know yet and I truly believe that a lot of my strength as a businesswoman comes from that experience and having everything stripped from me including my hair, body, confidence, and even my sense of smell. I think my story inspires people because I came through it and picked up my dreams and I feel I’ve earnt the right to live my best life. I’ve created thousands of jobs across the world, I have done amazing things and I will continue to do things that give back. I can see people’s lives transform when they’re listening to me and I want to continue to share the story.