A little while ago, when I heard that Jo Malone was launching her new venture, called Jo Loves, I e-mailed her to ask for an interview, as I was really curious about a new stage of her career, but she hasn’t replied, so when the occasion arose last Monday to attend a mentoring event, ‘How to launch a global beauty brand’, organised by CEW UK, with Jo Malone MBE, I was very pleased that I managed to get a ticket, as the event sold out in record time.
The event started on a sombre note of the news of passing away of Evelyn Lauder from ovarian cancer (the news made all the more poignant because she was the woman who started the pink ribbon cancer campaign and was tirelessly raising funds for this cause for many years). Jo knew Evelyn very well and she was the first person who Jo called after getting diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Upon hearing the news, Evelyn urged Jo to come to New York for treatment, saying ‘Sweetheart, you make lemonade from lemons’.
Jo, looking very smart and full of beans in her beautiful leather jacket went on talking about her hectic start to the day when her hairdresser, Sean, didn’t turn up and she used Fairy liquid in her hair-I don’t know whether she was serious but she certainly made all of the women present in the auditorium chuckle and relate to the situation, as Jo went on to remark that ‘things happen in life but the outcome depends on how you manage to turn them around’.
Jo Malonehas created an incredibly successful brand-I remember how special it felt every time I bought a bottle of her perfume from her first shop in Walton street. Jo sold her business to Estee Lauder and left the creative director post in 2007, but she says she loves the brand to this day.
Jo’s road to success started as a facialist, when she walked from house to house with her massage table, offering her services and when women started recommending her to each other, as a gratitude gesture, she started mixing little bottles of oils for them as treats until one day one of her clients bought a 100 bottles to give away as a gift at a party and it turned out that 86 out of 100 women-must have been a big party .)- wanted to buy the product. Jo said self-depreciatingly that her timing is always great as Jo Malone was started in the middle of recession-and our current times, coinciding with the launch of Jo Loves, aren’t easy for people either. The growth was gradual but steady and Jo’s shops spread as far as Australia-she says she loved the times when no one knew her there and it took time and effort to build the brand’s recognition abroad.
As Jo’s brand grew, life threw a curve ball in her lap, called breast cancer diagnosis and she was told by the doctor that if left untreated, she only had weeks to live, so Jo took the decision and flew to NY, on Evelyn Lauder’s advice and had surgery 48 hours later. Her initial recovery took a year, which she has spent with her husband and son in NY but Jo said that an event like this changes you and she did start looking at life, and things in general, differently-she gave an example that while she was recuperating in NY, her store opened on Madison Avenue, yet she realised that her passion for her business wasn’t there any more and she was standing at the cross road, as her love for the industry was draining away and she had no creative ideas floating in her head anymore. She decided to sell her business to Estee Lauder, who was her retail partner and of course, waking up the next morning, she regretted selling the business.
Some time has passed, and Jo ventured out with a new project, a TV show on BBC1 that centered on finding entrepreneurs and helping them become a successful business. Jo reinforced the point that ‘small businesses will re-build this country’ again and again, and she seems to passionately believe in this idea. After that programme, out of eight candidates, five are still running their businesses with some success and one is stocked up in Waitrose. Jo did stress that she loved that opportunity and experience but will never do it again, however another good seed was planted during that period-she was invited to make chilli sauce in the garden shed with a Hindu family (who were programme’s participants) and as she was helping with the cooking, she realised that her passion was coming back and she was again excited about the idea of going our and selling her product hence the name of her new brand ‘Jo Loves’.
Jo started thinking about colours, packaging, textures and one night she had a red colour dream, so she bouned out of bed the nextday, thinking that that would be the colour of her packaging-incidentally one of her favourite leather jackets is a beautiful vivid red! Jo Loves launched at Selfridges two weeks ago ( I am going to tell you about my experience there a little later in this post).
Jo said that building a brand is never easy and a lot of tears are shed along the way, that not many people see, but she is absolutely sure that new, creative, inspiring businesses are needed to boost and lift this country’s economy. When Jo was asked whether she misses ‘Jo Malone the brand’ she replied that she is very proud of what she has created 28 years ago but it’s like choosing between two of your children-which one is favourite, as you love each for a different reasons….
Jo seems to be very excited about an opportunity to deliver a new brand and her aim is to ‘capture the moments in time that captivate people’. We all have memories of a favourite smell that put a happy smile on our faces and she wants her customers to participate creatively in this brand, as a way of new way of looking at the idea of a perfume. Jo is dyslexic, by her own admission, and she says it is particularly important for her to engage with her customers.
Another important factor, as far as Jo is concerned, is social media, which allows people to become intimate with their chosen market and she seems very determined to take the bull by the horns when it comes to her business exposure using this type of media interaction.
At the moment you can buy four ‘Jo Loves’ fragrances:
Pomelo (clean & crisp)– it was inspired by a walk on the beach and crisp linens, Jo depicts this smell as ‘the best friend’
Green Orange & Coriander (soulful and sassy)-Jo was inspired by ‘having branch while wearing your favourite, comfortable cashmere sweater’ while developing this perfume. In her words it offers ‘comfort, freshness, sexiness’.
Orange Tulle (fun & flirty)-Jo was inspired by a ballet she saw, when a ballerina moved and her tutu fluttered in an interesting way. Jo said this fragrance makes her feel relaxed and frivolous when out with her girlfriends.
Gardenia (rich & regal)-Jo associates this fragrance with timeless moments, diamonds in your ears, when a woman can feel regal.
She plans to launch two candles until the end of this year, which will have three layers but six layers of smell as they burn (frangipani/wild reseda/tuberose and lemongrass/amber/tiare flower) . Jo admitted that she made a mistake when signing the order for those and instead of 30,000 only 3,000 will be available to buy. She also added that another eight fragrances will be launched next year.
Jo seems to have a very special bond with her husband Gary, who was also present during the event and he once said that what makes Jo is her ‘lack of education and her instinct to survive’. She describes her nose like ‘having nine paintbrushes’ and currently develops her perfumes with Givaudan and says that she loves working with them. When I asked about her past favourite fragrance, she admits that ‘Orange Blossom’ and ‘Lime, Mandarin & Basil’ are the ones that are the most close to her heart. Her son recently asked her how does it make her feel when she sees someone carrying a ‘Jo Malone’ bag and she says she just feels proud.
I have to say that I truly enjoyed this event and listening to Jo, who is a natural speaker and who seems quite passionate about her business. Her eyes sparkle and she does seem truly excited about her new business, yet I did walk away feeling that she isn’t an open book, and she holds many things back, maybe as a safety catch mechanism or maybe because her DNA is as such.
As I had some time after the event, I went to Selfridges and smelled all four Jo Loves fragrances again. One fragrance stood out for me almost instantly, the zesty, bright as a smile Pomelo-to me it smells like the rays of sunshine dancing on my face while I am drinking freshly squeezed orange juice on the terrace, overlooking the sea early in the morning. At £95 per 100 mls the perfume isn’t cheap and there doesn’t seem to be any plans to have them in smaller sizes ( it would make sense both to attract a wider customer base and also for travel reasons, as I won’t take such a big perfume bottle into my handbag when travelling, even though 100mls is the max volume allowed to be taken on board of a plane). I was also quite puzzled when sales girls ( each wearing a beautiful red lipstick-so smart and sexy and giving each one of them a very distinct personality, depending on their skin and hair colour) told me that when the current batch of those four fragrances was sold out, there would be no more of them available, but new smells would be launched, which again, didn’t make sense to me-you buy the fragrance, fall in love with it and then won’t be able to restock? In all the honesty, personally I wouldn’t buy more than one bottle of perfume at a time, when it costs so much money. Jo did seem to talk a lot about young generation and keeping in touch with them via her Facebook and Twitter accounts but again, times are hard, there won’t be too many young women who can afford such expensive perfume-or am I wrong?
Jo Malone sales girl also answered my questions about the limited edition candles and asked me whether I wanted to go on the waiting list-well, I have an almost ‘allergic’ reaction to the words ‘waiting list’ be it for a bag, a perfume or a place for a child at school, so I shook my head and balancing my ‘Jo Loves’ red bag, went home pensively…..