Jo Malone CBE Just Told Me Which Perfumes She Actually Wears
Beauty is a totally oversaturated industry. There, I said it. Over the past few years, with what feels like hundreds of new, independent brands coming onto the scene and multibillion-pound beauty conglomerates throwing every spare penny they have into competitive marketing, to say it’s a struggle to make a name for yourself would be a massive understatement. But then, you hear stories like Jo Malone CBE’s, and faith is restored.
Truthfully, before Jo Malone (both the woman and the brand), fragrance was ruled by emperors. Think big names like Chanel, Guerlain, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Fragrance names that we now deem mainstream were once upon a time, for the majority of people, the only choice when it came to luxury scents. Unless you had some serious cash to spend, independent fragrance brands simply did not exist, and the big dogs liked it that way. You see, in beauty, fragrance runs the game. With huge sales volumes and even bigger profit margins (when you’re mass-producing on a global scale, costs can be kept very low), perfume and fragrance is a sure-fire way to make big money.
If you’re an independent fragrance brand, however, things aren’t quite so clear-cut. Raw materials cost a fortune, marketing means having to compete with TV campaigns and, most importantly, creating a crowd-pleasing scent is incredibly difficult when you don’t have the money for a “nose.” (Yes, that is a real job, and it takes years of training). But that’s a risk that Jo Malone CBE was willing to take. With no formal fragrance training (she had worked with florists and as an at-home facialist), Malone started making scented beauty products in her kitchen and founded Jo Malone London. After opening her first store in 1994, by 1999, the brand’s success was so overwhelming that it was sold to beauty giant Estée Lauder. Thus, a new era of fragrance was born.
Soon, Jo Malone London became one of the most recognisable brands in beauty. (I challenge you to find an Instagram feed that doesn’t showcase a bottle of its iconic cologne.) Since then, Malone has left the eponymous company, created another brand, Jo Loves, and collaborated with high-street giant Zara to create an affordable fragrance line, Emotions.
Throughout my career, I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing perfumers, “noses” and brand founders, and it’s safe to say that no one understands what we want from fragrance quite like Malone. With the face of beauty having changed so drastically over the past year, many of us have felt at a loss when it comes to fragrance. Perfumes we once turned to for uplifting empowerment have no place in our low-key routines, zesty body products that once reminded us of sunny escapes now come with an added sense of longing nostalgia and, on top of it all, finding a way to shop for scents that fit into our new normal is harder than ever.
As a die-hard fragrance lover, I have felt somewhat uncertain about what the future of scent will be. So in a bid to find my perfume mojo once more, I sat down with Malone herself to discuss what scent means to her and to get her thoughts on how we will use fragrance as we enter a post-lockdown world. From discovering her favourite perfumes to being let in on the scents that have come to define her, this is what she had to say. If anyone can pull us out of our perfume rut, it’s Jo Malone CBE, right?