Jo Malone in Dubai: how she tells stories through her perfumes

If there’s one thing you should know about perfumer Jo Malone CBE, the woman behind one of the world’s most recognizable brands, it’s that she loves a good story.

From her own fairy tale, from a south-east London consultancy to a massive global enterprise, to the magical inspirations behind her fragrances, Malone is full of anecdotes.

During an interview with Gulf News at a beauty event at City Center Mirdif on March 17, the warm and friendly Malone didn’t hesitate to share these stories with us.

She lit up from the inside talking about everything from fragrance notes and her love for Dubai, to being proud of the brands she’s built – Jo Malone London, which she founded in 1990 and sold to Estee Lauder in 1999; and Jo Loves which she created in 2011.

Jo Malone during an interview with Gulf News in Dubai
Image credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“The way I look at it — because I’m a very visual human being — is that I’m the mother of both,” she said. “But one went off to college and grew up and doesn’t need me anymore, and the other is still at home.”

While some may not be aware that Jo Malone London is no longer her baby, it’s not an association she views with negativity.

“I sold it and it belongs to someone else… But I’m proud to have done this,” Malone said. “I always walk past the shop and I have this little note in my head thinking ‘you taught me so much’. And I do not regret it. Not for a second.

His love for Dubai

Malone, 58, has traveled the world through her global brand and during her interview, she revealed she’s a bit of a Dubai veteran.

“I’ve been here 14 years in a row and I love it. And I wonder if it would be nice to come and live here for a bit? I’ve been here for a week and I feel like I’m at my best,” she enthused. “Companies are so [fast] move here… you know you can feel an energy. And I can be so creative – I don’t know why and I don’t question it either… I feel very enterprising here.

small beginnings


Jo Malone in a file photo
Image Credit: GN Archives

Malone was an open book as she opened up about her dyslexia and struggles to overcome from an early age.

“I was a young girl with a whole bunch of dreams. I came from a family with very little money. So from the age of 11 I had to put food on the table,” says “I had a difficult upbringing, but a happy upbringing, to say the least, but it made me. At the age of 18, I was already starting my first entrepreneurial business. I left school at 15, no diplomas, no university, nothing. Just that instinctive business feeling and I still have it today.

The start of his brand

Malone said she never intended to get into the fragrance business, as she previously worked as a beautician.

“I ran a little skincare clinic and made little body lotions and tiny bath oils and gave them out to everyone who came for their face. And one day a lady bought 100 bottles,” she said.

“I go around the world telling my story and I can see people come alive with the story, because it’s so connected to people…it just hits right there in your heart. And you think ‘if she can do it, I can do it.’ And I love it,” Malone added.

She said the brand grew because everything came to her intuitively.

“My husband [Gary Willcox] is my business partner – still my husband, still my business partner and my best friend. And we opened our first store and in five years it was so successful,” she said. “We were doing things that no one had ever done because we had no protocols, we had no strategy – I would smell it, create it, sell it – it was such a simple process. And as the company got bigger and bigger, our cash reserve got smaller and smaller. So within five years, we had sold to Estee Lauder Corporation. And life changed from that moment on.

No regrets

When asked if anything she wished would have been done differently, Malone said no, even when it came to her 2003 battle with breast cancer, which she beat a year later.

“I’m not someone who looks back. I always have my eyes turned forward. Because if you look back, you are wrong. Would I have done things differently? Yes, of course,” she said. “Some of the things I’ve told people I regret, but the things that happened to me, I wouldn’t change…even my exposure to breast cancer, it changed me — it made me see life differently.”


Jo Malone at Cosmotel 2022 City Center Mirdif-1648372493366

Jo Malone in Dubai
Image Credit: Supplied

Malone sold her first company to Estee Lauder in 1999 but remained creative director until 2006 before starting over with Jo Loves.

“This second venture was much more difficult, but much more rewarding,” she said. “It was a whole other emotional journey to get there, so I have no regrets. I would have done things a little differently if I had sold my business. I would have sold it to the Estee Lauder Corporation anyway – I think it’s an amazing family – but I probably would have sold it a little differently with ties to my name.

What is THE Jo Malone perfume?

Cosmotel 2022 Snapshots of day two downtown Mirdif_-1648372497135

The Jo Malone line on display
Image Credit: Supplied

“This is my perfume that I made for myself, it’s called Jo by Jo Loves,” she said, liberally spraying this reporter and the photographer with a large bottle of red perfume. “It’s a grapefruit mezze…it’s the perfume I made for myself that I was never going to sell. And then every time I wore it, I made another 10 bottles and gave them away until we got to the point where I was giving away 1,000 bottles a month. My husband said “we’re putting that on the shelf”. »

She then sprayed another coat of perfume from a beautiful golden bottle – her latest launch – and she too had a wonderful story.

“It’s a beautiful gardenia, called Golden Gardenia. And basically the story is about looking at yourself and saying I love who I am,” she said. “It’s giving yourself an Oscar saying ‘you know what? Don’t be the best for someone else, be the best for yourself.’ It’s about positivity, creativity… don’t run your life for what you think people want you to be.

An emotional pandemic

Malone was candid about struggling with the pandemic on an emotional level.

“The first year, I found it quite easy to manage. With the second year, I really struggled – I struggled creatively and I struggled mentally,” the perfumer said. “I had anxiety issues…why? I love people, I love being around people. I love conversation. So I need to be inspired to be innovative, to be creative. .. but i came here [to Dubai] and I love that.

Work with Zara

At one point in our conversation, Malone excitedly brought up the fact that she made the fragrances for fashion store Zara and told me that she would find me later to show them to me herself – and she did. did ! She walked me to the store and sprayed me with an array of her more affordable designs.

“We just did one called Magnificently Dubai. I did Fabulously London, which is one of my favorites,” she said. “I created 42 perfumes for them. And I will prepare the next two collections from here. And then an amazing collection we’re doing for Jo Loves for next year. So I’m here to work and whenever I’m at the water’s edge I can think clearly.

Celebrity Perfumes

TAB 220318 Jo Malone WITH JO BY JO LOVES PERFUME-1648372483135

Jo Malone during an interview at MCC in Dubai on March 17, 2022. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Asked about her thoughts on celebrity-led fragrances, Malone agreed wholeheartedly.

“There is room for everything. And you know, what celebrity perfumes have done a lot of good. And I know people who are celebrities who created their own [fragrance], I created them for them. So I think there’s always room for all of us. Perfume is an art,” she said. “For me, the person wearing the perfume is the celebrity. That’s how we approach it. »

The future of Jo Loves

Jo Malone

Jo Malone
Image credit:

Malone shared that there is an exciting project she is working on that people won’t be expecting from her.

“We have a whole new avenue that we are about to launch in the UK. And then we’ll take it around the world. And that’s something no one would have expected me to do,” she said, adding that her creativity knows no bounds.

“I feel like there’s one more piece that I feel like I’m about to do. I don’t know what it is,” Malone added. “There’s just something there for me and I can almost touch it…I want to have enough space with what I’m doing to be able to do anything – that last missing piece.”

Sarah C. Figueiredo