They say you can’t keep a good woman down. Case in point: Jo Malone. It’s almost two decades since she sold her company - and name - to Estee Lauder for an ‘undisclosed sum’. Since then, she’s been like a sprinter on the starter blocks, every tendon, every sinew, every muscle quivering in anticipation of winning her next race.
There have been a few setbacks along the way, not least a fight with breast cancer (Jo: 1, cancer: 0), but eventually her new brand, Jo Loves, was born, and has been up and running for almost five years now.
Let’s be clear, Jo Loves is not Jo resting on her laurels. The fragrances are daring, quirky, witty (my favourite is No 42 The Flower Shop, which smells exactly like walking through the front door of a florist, all fresh blooms and green stems). The formulations are innovative, ground-breaking, thrilling.
And the woman herself is every bit as driven as she was all those years ago when she was working in a flower shop in the wrong part of Chelsea (hard to believe, I know, but there once was a wrong side to Chelsea).
A shop, as it happens, on the very site of her swanky Jo Loves boutique, now at the heart of the sharp-cheekboned shopping community on Elizabeth Street, SW1. The area itself may have risen a few rungs on the social ladder, but Jo herself is still her old self, estuary accent and all.
I couldn’t care less where a person comes from; but in the context of her work, Jo’s life story is important. She grew up on a council estate in Kent and left school at 13 when her mother suffered a stroke. More than many she appreciates the true value of life’s little luxuries - of which fragrance is of course one of the most pleasurable and affordable.
She is also testimony to the fact that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. In her case, that has meant starting again from scratch with one hand tied behind her back - in the sense that of her contractual obligations towards Lauder which, while by no means unreasonable, were by their very nature restrictive. Hard launching a new fragrance brand when you’re in competition with yourself.
Anyway, she’s done it. Jo Loves is the evolution of Jo Malone the woman, not Jo Malone the brand - and it’s a triumph. With no formal training (or perhaps thanks to it), Jo has created something that delights and inspires even an old fragrance hand like me.
Her latest wheeze is the Shot Candle collection. If you like a crafty cocktail, you’ll like this. It’s a chance to become your own scented candle mixologist, and create your very own home fragrance by combining different essences (with a little expert help) in the shop. Mix the mojito made with a shot of sweet, sharp mango; combine fiery vetiver with sensual fig. The result is, like all good cocktails, huge fun - and a little intoxicating. Cheers!