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The ultimate fragrance storyteller, Jo Malone is back with a new brand, Jo Loves, and a new lease on life.


The ultimate fragrance storyteller, Jo Malone is back with a new brand, Jo Loves, and a new lease on life.

Possibly the most well-known name in modern fragrance, Jo Malone shocked fans and industry alike when she walked away from her namesake brand, Jo Malone London, in 2006, (she’d sold to Estée Lauder Companies in 1999, staying on as creative director).

Jo had undergone treatment for breast cancer in the years before her departure, and sat out her subsequent non-compete period recovering her energy and plotting her next move. That move, Jo Loves, was launched in 2011 and is finally available in Aotearoa through Adore Beauty - including the usual scent products, and a unique refillable gel fragrance “paintbrush”.

“It [cancer] gave me an opportunity to relook at my life and who I was and who I wanted to be,” explains Malone, on the phone from her home in London. “I took a bad situation and tried to bring good from it. While fighting it my mind was just focused on surviving.”

Malone likens her fight to what the world is going through globally, with the Covid-19 pandemic. “When you're in the trauma of it, you have adrenaline to get you through. It's when that trauma starts to ease that all the problems come to the surface, you start to get back to real life and realise the things that you want to do.”

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One of the side-effects Malone suffered from chemotherapy was the loss of her sense of smell. Devastating for anyone, but especially for someone who’d built a career around it. Specialists were unable to determine if it would come back.

Then one morning, six weeks after walking away from her namesake brand, it did. “I woke up one morning and I thought, ‘Gary's making coffee. And the French door is open’. I mean, they weren't lovely perfume smells. They were life smells. I could smell everything with this unbelievable intensity. It was as though colour had just rushed back into my life.”

With the return of her smell came tentative bursts of creativity. Malone describes a beach holiday in Turks and Caicos where she was feeling anxious about finalising one of her signature scents, Pomelo. “I was pushing myself every day to create. And the more I pushed it, the more distant I became from creativity. It's like looking at someone and saying, 'I will fall in love with you'. And the more you say it, the less emotion is there.”

Malone is aware of her gift for storytelling through scent, and acutely aware of the responsibility it imbues her in the ‘current climate’.

“I said to my team at the beginning of the pandemic, ‘we're gatekeepers of scent memories. We have a really important role here because we can remind people what life smells like and how it will return’. Scents are like huge keys that unlock things. And they're either past memories or future memories you're planting.”

She tells a story of a favourite holiday destination in the mountains of Montana, where she travels each year with her husband and her son. Unable to travel there for the past couple of years due to lockdowns, this year she got out her Smoked Plum and Leather candle and lit it.

“My husband got his guitar out and we pretended we were in the bar. And the smell made us think that we were.”

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