English Pear & Freesia. Lime, Basil & Mandarin. Peony & Blush Suede. These are just some of the bestselling scents created by Jo Malone, a woman who surely need no introduction on a website dedicated to beauty.
What you might not know is that the British perfumer sold her hugely successful eponymous fragrance line to Estée Lauder in 1999 (stepping away from the brand in 2006) and has since been working on another passion project: Jo Loves, which you can now buy on Net-A-Porter.
We spoke to the fragrance doyen recently about her dreamy vocation, how fragrances have changed since she started, and the best way to seek out a signature scent (hint: Malone is big on wearing more than just one)…
GRITTY PRETTY: How does one become a perfumer? It sounds like such a dreamy, romantic vocation.
JO MALONE: I’m not actually a trained nose, so the way that I create fragrances is very different to a perfumer – I’m completely self-taught. Because I’m dyslexic I have a library of memories – moments, people, colours and smells – in my head that I translate into fragrance. It’s the only way I know how to create and whilst unconventional, it’s been a strength for me, certainly at the beginning of my career, because I stood out as someone who looked at things differently and paved the way for both consumers and other niche brands to experiment with scent.
GP: Describe your approach to beauty?
JM: For as long as I can remember I’ve had a love affair with the beauty industry. My mum worked for Revlon before becoming a facial therapist so I was surrounded by products from a young age. In fact, I made my first face cream at age nine. I’ve maintained quite a simple approach in my own beauty routine and I believe less is more. Clean, glowing skin plus a slick of lip gloss and a fabulous blow-dry makes me feel ready for anything.
GP: How has the fragrance market changed since you started making perfumes?
JM: The rise in celebrity fragrances has been huge, but I also feel consumers are now much more interested in discovering brands with integrity and authenticity. I’m really excited to see so many niche fragrance brands appearing who are daring to be different and telling real stories instead of re-creating the same smells over and over again. I’ve never looked at trends and have always tried to stimulate the industry by using ingredients that are unexpected and aren’t always associated with fragrance.
GP: With so many fragrance options, it can be quite overwhelming. What are your best tips for finding out a signature scent?
JM: Fragrance is such a personal purchase, it’s often hard to choose a new scent which is why so many people wear the same fragrance for years whether they still love it or not. I would start by thinking about the types of smells you love such as citrus, floral, spicy etc.; also, how you want a fragrance to make you feel – happy, confident, relaxed, uplifted, and whether it’s summer or winter. Once you have narrowed it down, take time to explore the inspirations behind each fragrance until you connect with one. Remember: there are no rules and the more fragrances you try the more confident you will become about your likes and dislikes.
GP: One of your big philosophies with fragrance is scent-combining. Can you tell us how that works?
JM: I’ve never had just ‘one’ signature scent and always wear more than one fragrance. I never wanted to smell like someone else so originally by showing my customers how to combine scents together, they get to share in my creative process.
GP: What’s the best way to apply perfume?
JM: I can’t count how many times I’ve been standing in my store and told people not to rub they wrists together! You need to allow fragrance time to warm, settle and develop. And because fragrance is so much a part of who I am, I will re-apply throughout the day and often spritz a little in my hair, t-shirt or sweater as well as my skin.
GP: Your new fragrance collection is called ‘Jo Loves’, what does Jo love?
JM: I love this question! I would definitely say that I was born to create fragrances and it really is one of my great loves. But I love so many other things too – family holidays, watching movies, horse-riding in Montana and a chilled glass – or two – of Whispering Angel rose on my terrace.
GP: What is your favourite scent or product in the new line?
JM: Pomelo – without a doubt! It was the first Jo Loves fragrance I created and gave me the confidence to go back to an industry I love so much. Inspired whilst on holiday, it’s made up of those summer memories and moments; the feeling of walking barefoot along the sand, the cool touch of fresh linen sheets, the zesty citrus lunchtime salad and a glass of sparkling water with lots of crushed ice.
GP: Finish this sentence, a fragrance should always have…
JM: Integrity and the heartbeat of its creator.
Jo Loves is now available on Net-A-Porter.