Girls On A Mission – How Joe Malone Changed The Scent Industry

Jo Malone

There can’t be many people who haven’t had some Jo Malone in their home – be it one of her signature scented candles, or some of her beautiful perfume products. Malone’s love of fragrance started at a young age, as a child she would make her own perfumes with flowers from the garden and grated Camay soap. She left school at the age of 15, with no qualifications, to care for her mum Eileen who suffered a stroke. Through her mother’s work as a beautician, Malone’s career soon unfolded before her eyes.

Creating Her Cult Brand

In an interview with The Independent, she recalled: ‘I was eight or nine and I’d go to work with my mum and watch this incredible woman in the laboratory. I’d watch how face masks were made; watch Madame Lubatti grind the sandalwood.’ Malone would help Madame Lubatti by pouring the finished products into little pots for the wealthy clientele, but it soon became clear to her that she had a gift for creating distinct and beautifully fragrant products.

Jo later worked as a facial therapist from her skincare clinic, which she set up from her London home. She would give her clients her homemade fragrant products like Nutmeg and Ginger Bath Oil and soon, demand for her fragrances grew. Subsequently, she launched her first brand, Jo Malone London, which quickly gained cult status around the world. In 1994, she opened her first of now 154 stores, and five years later her flagship London store.

In 1999, Malone sold the business to Estée Lauder Companies and remained Creative Director until she left in 2006.

Malone is dyslexic so she couldn’t follow a formulation, but she developed her own way of crafting her magic, thanks to her super nose. Describing her incredible sense of smell, Malone said in the same interview: ‘I can smell anything. I could smell when my husband was sick, when there’s something not right with the dog, when it’s going to snow.  I can smell all kinds of things that are normal to me, but not to other people.’

However, this way of doing things proved to be problematic to the company’s new owners. When she had sold her company to Estée Lauder, they asked to see the formulations. She recalled: ‘I said, ‘’I haven’t got a formulation, I make it from my head’’. I sat in their laboratories and they’d ask me to make something and off I’d go. They’d say, ‘’Stop, stop! How many drops was that?’’, and I’d say, ‘’I don’t know! Until it feels right!’’, and we’d have to start all over again.’

Battling Cancer And Moving On To Her Next Adventure

In 2006, Malone stepped down from her role as Creative Director. During this time, she had battled cancer and decided it was time to take time for herself. But after a five-year career hiatus (which under the terms of the deal with Estée Lauder, she was obliged to do), she was ready to get back to business and set up her new company, Jo Loves, a collection of candles, body creams and fragrances in 2011. The first fragrance under her new company, Pomelo, is a very personal product, and is the top seller.

Malone is an iconic figure who continues to innovate the scent industry. She is continually creating new ways to wear her scents, including the Jo Love paintbrush, which is a gel formula that you brush onto the skin.

Feature image credit: Instagram/@joloves