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Legendary British perfumer Jo Malone CBE waited five years to reclaim her identity and life purpose, reemerging as a stronger, more creative version of her former self.

In Patrick Süskind’s classic fiction novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, the author remarked that “he who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men”.

A sublime fragrance can easily override words and appearances, leaving behind an invisible trail that lingers in the air.

From the prestigious Concours d’Elegance in London to a warm citrus breeze on a summer evening in Seville, it’s precious moments like these that tug at the heartstrings and put us in a celebratory mood.

For legendary British perfumer Jo Malone, there are endless sources of inspiration that can be translated into exquisite scents. And she’s done exactly that – with the help of nature’s pharmacy.

In the third chapter of her life, Malone is an unstoppable creative force who has weathered countless storms since her eponymous label Jo Malone London sprouted to life in 1990. Nine years later, Estée Lauder Companies acquired the brand along with her name that was tied to it.

“Fragrance is my best friend.”

From enduring chemotherapy and losing her sense of smell to having to wait five years to compete in the fragrance game with her second global business Jo Loves, Malone knows only too well that smooth sailing for successful entrepreneurs is a myth.

As she sits down with The CEO Magazine to discuss paintbrushes, storytelling and forging new pathways, one thing is clear: Jo Loves encompasses all the lessons learned and the limitless passion of its founder.

“I think when I was younger, creativity frightened me a bit, if I’m really honest, because it wasn’t a world I was used to,” she admits. “Now I’m so happy sitting on my own with my notebook, being with my best friend, creating fragrance. Fragrance is my best friend.”

Birthing a New Chapter

Having swapped the gray skies of London for the dazzling desert sands of Dubai has had a noticeable impact on Malone, who is leaning into all that the city has to offer – and new fragrance notes are a given.

“I’ve lived in Dubai now for nearly two years and I am loving every single second,” she enthuses. “I’m loving the culture, the people, the peacefulness, the sunshine, the busyness.

“But I think I went there to look for opportunity and there is so much opportunity in Dubai. It’s a banquet and everybody there is doing something.”

And, while it’s easy to assume that having a name in the industry automatically opens doors, Malone says that this phase in her career requires some exploration on her part. Not only that, but to begin with she dived head first into building the brand without having the proper processes in place.

“I feel like I’m really meant for something amazing, but this time I’ve got to go find it. It’s not going to knock on my door,” she notes. “I’ve been lucky in my life where a lot of things have knocked on my door, but this time I had to go and poke the world and see what else I could do.

“You don’t stand still in life. That’s not what life is about. It’s about growing as a person and allowing experiences and adventures to challenge you and change you.”

“I feel like I’m really meant for something amazing, but this time I’ve got to go find it. It’s not going to knock on my door.”

By the end of 2036 the global fragrance market is expected to climb to US$70 billion as consumers look to make considered purchases, which is good news for the more premium brands.

With 17 projects underway and new stores springing up in different parts of the world, Malone believes that continuing to tell stories through the medium of fragrance and throwing out the rule book on the usual combinations is the secret sauce to standing out from the crowd.

“I’m not a trend follower. That’s not what my business is about,” Malone says. “I’m much more about sourcing unique ingredients that others will then find, which I’ve done many times.

“What I’m delivering to the consumer are true stories of my life, but instead of a book or a piece of music, they are fragrances. So I’m no different to Adele writing a song, but you can hear her creativity, you can smell mine. So that is how I am approaching it.”

With travel playing an important role as a source of inspiration, Malone says that she is happiest when seated on a plane with a notebook in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

“For me being on a plane is like a think tank. I have space and time and I allow my imagination just to run wild. So it’s an enjoyable process,” she reflects.

Venturing into New Genres

As an entrepreneur and creative who paved the way for smaller brands to make their mark on the world, Malone is keen to forge that path with Jo Loves.

“I think the moment of the entrepreneur has never been so powerful and we look at the choices that we have and all these wonderful creative brands,” she says. “And actually the bigger brands are much more excited by smaller brands now. They’re not the poor cousins any longer, they’re the ones leading the way.”

What followed that epiphany was the Fragrance Paintbrush (TM) – a gel formula that enables the wearer to brush the fragrance rather than spritz it onto bare skin. This innovation is what Malone refers to as the brand’s ‘golden ticket’ and one example of steering luxury fragrance into different genres.

“It’s all over TikTok and these young people are simply loving the fact that they can become their own perfumer and their own creative artists,” she says. “We’ve made it very easy for them to do it, but they’re enjoying that process and that empowerment element of what we’re creating.

“The younger generation is really influencing the beauty industry and really holding us to account to be responsible, but also wanting to be part of the actual process of creation. I think that is what’s really changed and why it’s very exciting.”

Capitalizing on Your Strengths

As the conversion turns to the nitty gritty aspects of running a global business, Malone shares with remarkable honesty that she knows exactly which hats to wear and which ones are more suitable for others.

“I’m not a great leader. I’m a great entrepreneur. I can inspire thousands of people in a room, but I’m quite a loner when I work,” she says. “But I know who is to my left and who is to my right and that’s my team.

“I love managing my fragrances. I’m in complete control of that, but I’m not a great people manager. I’m much more the creative.”

Malone believes her strengths lie in strategy and vision, but when it comes to running the actual business, her husband, Gary – who is also her business partner and the CEO of Jo Loves – is much better equipped.

“I think I am living my gap year in the third chapter of my life, traveling, meeting the most incredible people, hearing their stories about building.”

“I actually don’t know anybody who has both and can run a global brand. I think you do need others in your team, otherwise what happens is that you end up doing what you’re not good at a lot of the time. And so you’re not at the top of your game,” she concedes.

True to form, Malone’s excitement around her new limited edition fragrance With Love from Positano – featuring orange oil, star anise and bergamot – is palpable.

“It’s this beautiful Mediterranean scent of sitting on the back of a Vespa going down the mountainside, having a little glass of ice cream and a coffee,” she enthuses.

Then there’s Amber, Lime and Bergamot, which is a blend of fresh citrus and warm amber with a hint of suede.

“It’s based all upon that one evening [Concours d’Elegance] where everyone was in beautiful dresses, dropped diamond earrings, and we sat out in the lawn,” she remembers.

“But the notes I’m using in this fragrance are influenced by the Middle East. So this beautiful, rich, rich amber sitting with a citrus, but it’s a very different turn and it’s almost the first of a chapter of fragrances that I’ve created.”

The Jo Loves collection is hardly complete without mentioning Malone’s olfactory signature, Jo by Jo Loves, in which earthy notes of guaiac wood are paired with refreshing grapefruit, lime and bitter orange notes.

Inspiration from Around the World

Our conversation with Malone coincided with her visit to Australia to celebrate the launch of her new store in Sydney’s iconic Strand Arcade. Her five-week tour also included a stop-off in Thailand, so perhaps an oriental-inspired fragrance might be next on the cards.

“There is something in every country,” she says. “I’ve never been to Bangkok, so I’m really interested in exploring some of the ingredients that I’ve never seen before and figuring out how I can draw those back to the Jo Loves brand.”

For Malone, having the freedom to nurture her craft on a daily basis alongside the projects that keep the brand fresh and interesting are a reminder that when one door closes another one opens, provided you don’t give up.

“I think I am living my gap year in the third chapter of my life, traveling, meeting the most incredible people, hearing their stories about building,” she says. “And it inspires me to want to continue to build and grow and create jobs, create great products and change the world.

“I’ve never felt closer to changing the world again for a long time.”

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