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Jo Malone CBE Personally Launched Her Brand Jo Loves in Manila

The English scent maverick inspired everyone in attendance

Jo Malone CBE in the house!

It was a warm Wednesday afternoon, where distinguished guests, celebrities, members of the media, and select beauty and lifestyle influencers were in attendance for the grand launch of Jo Loves in Manila. While the brand, located in Glorietta 4, has been open since the latter quarter of 2023, it was just a few days ago that the brand has been formally launched to the public, by Jo Malone CBE herself. 

The place was buzzing with excitement, the energy was palpable, and everyone was simply overflowing with anticipation as we were in for a really major treat, a career milestone for many, as we were in the presence of an icon, the English scent maverick, THE Jo Malone CBE. 

Jo Malone CBE

Years after leaving her namesake brand Jo Malone London (which is now under the Estée Lauder group), the renowned British perfumer went on to take a second chance at life in 2011: via Jo Loves.

Contrary to what many might imagine, Jo did not have her life handed to her on a silver platter. Inasmuch as she inherently had the creativity and talent to go on to be one of the world's biggest names in fragrance, she and her family had humble beginnings.

But I have a great belief in life, that nothing is ever wasted. Not where we come from. Not what we do, not what we didn't do. We are who we are, and our parents and our upbringing were a huge part of that.

"I came from a family background where there wasn't a lot of money. But I had two very, very, very creative parents. My mom was in the beauty industry, and my father was a brilliant artist. He was also a magician, a member of Magic Circle, and he was a huge gambler, a poker player. My Saturday jobs were to go to the market with him and sell his paintings. And I used to absolutely love a marketplace. I mean, I love being a shopkeeper. And also I was the magician's assistant. So I would look after the rabbits, and I would know how they came out of hats, how people were sawn in half. You might not know that in this case. But he also taught me, my father, how to read marked cards in a poker game. So I would stand in the corner of the poker room, twiddling my glance, letting my father know what everyone had in their hand. And of course my father knew his wind. But I have a great belief in life, that nothing is ever wasted. Not where we come from. Not what we do, not what we didn't do. We are who we are, and our parents and our upbringing were a huge part of that."

Jo Malone CBE, truly an inspiring woman | Paui Guevarra

Utterly curious about how her life story would unfold, we listened ever so intently to everything else she had to say. She went on to share, "I left school at 15. I had no qualifications. I never went to university. I'm afraid I don't believe any of those grand things. But I did have an entrepreneurial heart. I built my first business. It was a beauty business when I was just 19 years old. I made face creams and made delicious body lotions to massage people's arms, and that is how I started. All the products were made in my kitchen, on a little stove, with a saucepan and four plastic jugs. That's all it was. I'd write here [in her book 'Jo Malone: My Story'] that I would type out the labels, because I'm dyslexic. You can imagine how wet it is, it's felt on the label. But my business grew and grew and grew. I opened my first store, and within five years, I had sold my first business to a global giant called Estée Lauder Corporation."

The Jo Loves Glorietta interior | Paui Guevarra
The Jo Loves Glorietta interior | Paui Guevarra

The world-famous Jo Malone London brand is still loved all over the world to this very day, and as she went on the share, she did start to build the brand but eventually had to leave. Jo shared, "In the third year of me actually being with Estée Lauder, I was diagnosed with cancer and I was given nine months to live. I had a little boy, six years old at the time, and a life and a 38-year-old woman who really, didn't want to die. I went to New York and I fought for my life. I was one of the first women to take chemotherapy in a very different way. It's called dose density chemotherapy today. Tumoxapine is why most women survive breast cancer, but I was one of the first to take it. After one year of chemotherapy, major surgery, losing my hair, losing my confidence, but I'd also lost my sense of smell, and I haven't told anyone. The adramycin and the cytoxidine have taken my sense of smell completely."

I wanted to be truthful to myself and the people around me. And so I left.

"What was I going to do? How on earth was I going to build a global brand and not be able to smell? Let me tell you, you don't know me well enough, but I could have done it. I was good at what I did. I didn't want to live my life like that. I didn't want to live it as a lie, and pretending. I wanted to be truthful to myself and the people around me. And so I left. All those years ago, nearly 20 years ago, I left. And a lot of people think I'm still there, but I'm not", Jo went on to share with such sincerity and emotion. Everyone in the room was moved.

Jo Malone CBE sharing her life story and snippets from her book 'Jo Malone: My Story' | Paui Guevarra

Second chances, new beginnings

While it may sound like a tragedy, that was definitely not the end of Jo Malone, the perfumer. Life does have its way of turning things around, and armed with courage, newfound confidence, and the right people, you may get a second chance. And it might come in the form of a beloved new brand.

I know what you should call your company, mum. You should call your company 'Jo Loves, because fragrance loves you and you love it.

"One month into leaving, I woke up one morning and my sense of smell came back overnight. But boy was it different. It was really different and really strange. Four years. Not being able to create, not being able to be the entrepreneur, I know I am and will always be. And what was I going to do? I tried lots of things and nothing particularly rocked my boat at all, shall we say. But when that five years was up, 48 hours up until the run-up, we were sitting around a kitchen table, Josh, my son, and my husband, Gary. And I said, I want to start again, I want to try again. I was too young to sit there on my dreams and not fulfill them. And I was too old, I felt, to change my whole direction.

And so that evening, at a little kitchen table, eating some spaghetti, Josh Wilcox [her son] put his hand in the air and said, I know what you should call your company, mum. You should call your company 'Jo Loves, because fragrance loves you and you love it.' And our company was born that evening, just with three people and a whole heap of dreams", Jo went on to story tell. 

The Jo Loves boutique interior | Paui Guevarra
The Jo Loves fragrance lineup | Paui Guevarra

Jo Loves is born

Not all businesses flourish overnight, and such was the case for Jo Loves. She went on to narrate how they met difficulty, but not without confidence in the new product she has created. "The following week we invested one million pounds sterling into trademarking Jo Loves around the world because we knew that if we didn't trademark it, somebody else would. Then before one bottle was sold, one bottle was made, one million pounds left in our bank account. Gary and I started all over again. The first two years of Jo Loves was agony. And the reason I'm telling you this is because business isn't always easy. Life isn't always easy. We don't always get what we deserve doing in business.

My first packaging, look at this [referring to a photo in her book], how awful was that? What on earth was going through my head? I was trying to be so different from anything I'd ever been. I've forgotten who I really was. So the first one with packaging was in Christmas, in our first year of trading, 2011. The head buyer of Selfridges had come to me and said, I hear, we all hear that Jo is back, and back to take on the world. And I said to her, I tell you what, if I coat you from head to foot in Pomelo, call me if people don't ask you about the scent you're wearing. By 9 o'clock, 12 people were asking. And so, we opened our first Jo Loves store all those years ago. This is beautiful Pomelo. She is the matriarch of our lives. The first fragrance of Jo Loves, another beginning", Jo shared. 

The Jo Loves Pomelo | Paui Guevarra

The brand now has more scents, as you will see when you enter a Jo Loves boutique. From among the lineup, some of our favorite scents include Mango Thai Lime, and No. 42 The Flower Shop. Jo had beautiful stories to tell about her scents, but No. 42 The Flower Shop was one in particular that we loved. "We found our first little home, which was 42 Elizabeth Street. It was my birthday and Gary gave me a key. And it wasn't a key to a car, because I can't drive. And it wasn't a key to a house, because I love my house. But it was a key to the shop. And the irony of this is, this was at my first job at 16 years old with Justin DeBlanc, my first boss. Exactly the same shop. Only one difference, the front door was on the other side. But it was the same shop I had my job, first job at 16 years old. I had returned back, I thought, to where I first started.

I walked into that other shop and the shop said to me, 'you will change the world again in this place. You will build a global brand, it won't be easy, but you will be able to do it and you will start again', and sure enough, just a few years later, we started to open up more. Our life today and our business today is so exciting. I take fragrance, I help, I go around the world teaching people to paint. I'm going to be painting some of you tonight with fragrance and causing you to look at fragrance from a different perspective and creativity. We have a Tapas Bar where nothing to eat, we're here to smell, I'm going to create a tapas for you, paint you with fragrance and tell you a few more stories. But what I would like to say is tonight we have gone back to 42 Elizabeth Street. And here we are. This is a fragrance that I created in honor of that."

Jo Loves No. 42 The Flower Shop | Paui Guevarra
Jo Malone CBE creating some "cocktails" in the famed Jo Loves Tapas Bar | Paui Guevarra
The famed Jo Loves Fragrance Paintbrushes | Paui Guevarra
Experience the signature Tapas Bar experience when you visit the Jo Loves boutique | Paui Guevarra

Future plans and looking back

I had the privilege of interviewing Jo Malone CBE personally, and knowing that I would be in the presence of an icon, I made sure to ask something I'd love to hear her thoughts about. Something I'd never heard her say before. I asked her what her fantasy fragrance would be, knowing that she draws inspiration from her personal life. I asked her what kind of milestone or life experience she's still looking forward to in creating this fragrance. She answered cheerfully, "I don't know. I don't know until it lands on my doorstep. I think I'm telling stories of life. I found a note a couple of years ago now which only grows on the top of the Amazon rainforest. And it's a flower. And because it grows at the top, the climate is very different. But the smell is amazing, it's nickname is beetle leaf and it has a bloom with it. I started to play around with that. So I have the privilege of being presented with amazing ingredients and notes that some of these amazing, you know, fragrance batches have found. And I play with them. But I don't know yet until it whispers in my ear. That's what I do is I try and combine ingredients and wrap them together, and it's the way I construct things. It's not just allow creativity to take you on a journey. And don't try and dictate it."

But now, I'm kind of, I'm so loving life and enjoying life and the things that life brings to us and enjoy them.

And because we've been so inspired to take second chances of our own through Jo's life story, I simply had to ask her what she'd want to tell her 18-year-old self. She quips, "Don't be in such a hurry to get to your destination. I think when I was younger, I was in so much hurry to get to the next point in my life. But now, I'm kind of, I'm so loving life and enjoying life and the things that life brings to us and enjoy them. I've got a 23-year-old son who's amazing and I look at him and I just think and I say to him just treasure every minute because life passes so quickly."

Now every time you spritz on some perfume from Jo Loves, know that each note was thoughtfully drawn out of an icon's colorful, adventurous life—one that continues to give, to create, and to inspire. Truly, fragrance loves Jo, she loves it, and we all love Jo Loves.

Visit Jo Loves at the G/F of Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati

Photography by Paui Guevarra. Special thanks to Prestige Brands Manila and The Beauty Edit