Monday, January 01, 2007


I normally try to post a little something new everyday to share with you, but lately, as some of you may have noticed, I've had intermittent postings the past two weeks! So, sorry for that! I just came back from a 2 week vacation in Richmond, BC with my fiance and my future in-laws and it was nothing short of sensational! It was a fun filled two weeks, never mind that the weather was hovering on the range of 3 to 5 degrees! But as my friend Nina once told me, there's no such thing as bad weather conditions, only badly dressed people. So to beat the cold, I bundled up when we went out, and took a slot beside Princess the cat in front of the fireplace while indoors! (That is, when not snuggling next to my dear fiance, haha!)

There's plenty of good food on that side of the coast, the freshest salmon sushis, the sweetest, plumpest shrimps (you should try the hakaws in this dimsum place in front of the Richmond Centre! super yummy!), the biggest crabs (Alaskan King crabs hello!), the best go-to place for cheap and generous portions of Chinese food (Richmond Public Market), the widest variety of curries (Indian, Singaporean, Malaysian, etc), and the best Korean cuisine (try Jang Mo Jib! That restaurant is always in my dreams darn it!) We ate out a lot that's for sure! So in between bonding with family, eating out and crossing the border to do some outlet shopping (Yeah!) that leaves little time for surfing the net, teehee!

Anyway, after a sensational holiday, I was inspired to write about a scentsational person, Jo Malone! I first heard about her from my sister Trina who had a bottle of French Connection's signature scent, back in 1995 (At the time, French Connection still wasn't known as the controversial FCUK, and the scent was packaged in the simple, yet distinctly Jo Malone clear bottle with black and cream accents). Still relatively unknown in other shores, except for those in the know, Ms. Malone created the fragrance exclusively for French Connection. And was it a hit with the London crowd as it was with us! My sister found herself sharing the bottle with me, and most of our friends who couldn't resist spritzing the scent on ourselves before leaving the house! (You know who you are! Haha!)

According to Vogue UK, Jo Malone's fascination with fragrance started early: roses in the garden, the Eau Sauvage on her father's shirts and the sun-warmed fur of the family Labrador. Jo mixed her own creations even then, using rose petals, leaves, lemon and orange skins and grated Camay soap. "I'd put them in the fridge and my sister would get sick because she'd think they were something to eat," she admits. Jo grew up in Bexleyheath in Kent with her mother, Eileen, a beautician and her artist father.

At 17, Jo headed to London and took a job at Pulbrook and Gould, florist to the Royal Family. To supplement her £29-a-week pay packet she worked as a gardener in the evenings but still got up at 4am to go to the flower market. Within a couple of years though she was back in the beauty business, giving facials to wealthy women by day and mixing face creams in her kitchen at night.

Jo was 19 and husband-to-be Gary was 23 when they met. "I fell head-over-heels in love," she says. They married two years to the day after they first met and later joined forces in the business, putting their savings into renting a one-bedroom flat in Chelsea, where Jo used the bedroom to give beauty treatments. She soon became known as 'the girl who does faces'.

At a time when others in the business were relying on new-fangled electronic facial equipment to impress clients, Jo relied simply on her hands. Her attention to clients' individual needs and her obvious creative talent for fragrance combining and product invention meant that an initial client list of just 12 soon swelled to thousands.

Ever the canny businesswoman, one inspired idea Jo had in the early days was to give her very first clients her first creation - Nutmeg & Ginger Bath Oil - as a thank you gift for their business. One client ordered an extra 100 bottles to give to friends, 86 of whom called to place further orders of their own for the delicious scent.

Having spotted a gap in the market for unique fragrances created by combining unexpected elements, Jo set off to France to work with perfume specialists in the city of Grasse.

Jo's sense of smell is so acute that she is able to sniff out her husband from, if not a hundred paces, certainly from considerably further away than most people could manage. "I know when my husband's around. He's got a very earthy, quite manly smell," she says. Once, alone in New York on business, she was sure she recognised her husband's scent in the hotel lobby. She was right; he had flown over to surprise her.

Having once created a lemon fragrance for the scented hand wipes in McDonald's, Jo admits to being business savvy. "I'm a merchant at heart," she says. However, it's her husband who acts as the company's managing director today, having given up his job as a building surveyor years ago to work alongside her.

A self-confessed control freak, when Jo goes on holiday she takes her own white linen sheets with her and likes them changed and starched every two days. She also takes her scent-making kit and a dictaphone to keep by the bed - just in case. She insists her bed linen is treated with her own Linen Sprays. "I'm a real perfectionist," she says. "I like things really ordered. There's a little bit of the Howard Hughes in me."

Jo opened her first store at 154 Walton Street in London in 1994. In 1999, she launched her flagship store in London's Sloane Street. That same year her company was purchased by Estée Lauder with Jo still at its UK helm as chairwoman and creative director. Post-sale the Jo Malone brand expanded still further, thanks to the new research, financial, marketing and distribution opportunities offered by being part of the Estée Lauder family. "It's a security blanket," she says. "I've always said I wanted 50 to 60 years in this business. I want to be doing this when I'm an old lady. Now I know that the business is safe. I remember at one meeting saying to my managers: 'We'll be the best in the world in five years,' and they thought I was mad. Today, with the help of Estée Lauder, I can see it happening."

Jo's passion for scent and skin care remains as intense today as it was when it all began. In March 2002, Jo Malone launched a skin care collection, followed in 2003 by a Facial Finishers Collection, a Coffee Fragrances & Tasting Bar concept and a Basil Outdoor Living Collection in 2004. Found in the world's most fashionable bathrooms, Jo counts Yasmin Le Bon, Jodie Kidd and Kate Moss among her legion of famous fans.

Today, the company has ten stores in the UK and Ireland, one in New York's Flatiron Building, over 300 concessions in department stores across the US and a shop in Sydney, Australia.

Check out her site at and find out for yourself the treasures she has in store for you!

So, with a sweet scent to set the mood for 2007, I greet you all a HAPPY AND BLESSED NEW YEAR! May all your goals be achieved, and your aspirations be realized this year!

(Photos courtesy of Vogue UK and

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