“I was 21 when I married my husband, Gary. People said we were too young and that it would never last, but here we are all these decades later, and he is still my best friend.
We’re very comfortable with each other, and knowing how we work individually and how we complement each other is a huge part of why we approach business well together. When it came to raising our family, I was the disciplinarian and he was the fun dad, but those roles are flipped in business – I get to be the fun entrepreneur and he’s the serious one! Gaz is the most empowering character; he places the baton into your hand and says “right, what do you think?” We disagree on things, of course, but we ultimately end up on the same page. When he puts his foot down in business, I know there are jolly good reasons for it.
There’s a new area of the business we’re going to be starting this year. I can’t say what that is yet, but we’re very excited.
I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved together during the pandemic. We ran a global business within the four walls of our house. We had to think differently, and he’d say to me, “don’t tell me you can’t do it – let’s figure out a new way”. During lockdown he secured and opened points of sale with a worldwide team across the Middle East, Asia and Australia, and we personally designed and opened every counter. He’s an absolutely wonderful human being. Last year I came down with a nasty virus that really knocked me off my feet, and so we decided to go and spend some time together in Portugal. I was desperate for some sunshine, so we packed up and moved our lives and business over there, just the two of us, alone, for six weeks. The house we found had this beautiful roof terrace with a tiny pool, and every evening we would go up and play ‘our era’s’ music and chat. Truly, there was never a dull moment, even after the last two years being on our own stuck in the same house together. I mean, we’re not really different to anybody else – we also have absolutely terrible, humdinger rows. You have to be real about all of the parts of a long term relationship, and it’s not easy, but we do love the simple things we do together, to sing, to have a glass of wine, and laugh.
Because of the pandemic, we haven’t travelled, we haven’t had the types of conversations we might normally have or meet the different types of people we might normally meet.
Everyone has been stuck inside and stuck in their own heads, so there’s all this pent up frustration. To me, in order for our creativity and imagination to be allowed to work, we need to be moving in some sense. Now, I am not a creature that likes change too much; I have OCD, and so I like to know what I am doing and where I am going. I’m definitely a person who has their day planned out and I get easily thrown by last minute shifts. However, I know that for all of us, being open to moving and changing in the bigger sense is really important. We can’t just stay stuck within the thoughts of today; we need to find ways to push through the guff to what could be next, and that’s pretty much impossible if you’re always just having your own thoughts and feelings reflected back at you, and they’re never being challenged.
We all need to relax a bit, so we can enjoy life and each other.
I certainly think that what unites us in life, and what we have in common, is far greater than what divides us. Let’s not alienate, or ostracise, but rather bring each other into our different worlds. Let’s think ‘well, what do we love to do together? What do we have in common?’ Change that starts from that place is organic and long lasting. When I speak with groups of people or someone reads my book, and they learn about my building and rebuilding my career, or surviving cancer, there’s something within my story for all sorts of people to identify with, and to think ‘oh if she did that, then I can’. Sharing our stories brings us all together.
I create fragrance in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I smell something and it evokes a memory, or I experience the memory and it takes me to a particular scent. Scent for me is a very easy means of travelling in my imagination.
I might suddenly be struck by a particular smell, and when that happens it’s like meeting a very charismatic, dynamic human being. All my concentration on whatever else I am doing disappears, and all I can think of is that one note, especially if it’s something I have never smelled before. That hasn’t happened to me for quite a while, but it did happen recently when I was going through some research by Roman Kaiser. He was talking about certain ingredients from the top of the canopy of the Amazon rainforest, and when he was describing the scent of a single leaf, suddenly I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying, I was just Alice down the rabbit hole. I can smell it again right now as I think about it – it’s green, fresh, and also herby and spicy.
More often than not, I spend a whole day working on four collections all at same time, so there’s about 80 or 90 notes I am working with in one go. I’m moving pieces from each collection, thinking ‘ok, this doesn’t fit there, where does it fit?’ It’s sort of a scent puzzle – when I get one piece right, then I know where it will be sitting and then can start finding the next accord.
I will visualise a scent, and then name it, because naming something means it suddenly has character.
Someone gave me a tambourine a while ago, and I found myself laughing thinking about the noise it makes when I hit it, which got me thinking about orchestras and violins and that feeling of joy music can give us. So some seemingly small thing can send me to a certain place in my imagination, and then I start to push through and create. I will delve into certain emotions and wonder, ‘when have I felt these kinds of things before? Where was I? Who was I with’? Sometimes it’s even simpler, and I just wake up in the morning already clearly smelling a new fragrance. That’s probably the way I go about creating my scents most often – a smell will come to me, and then I start to think, ‘how can I make this work? What diverse notes can I add to make this Jo?’ I feel so lucky that it happens to me so naturally.
How you might use fragrances in your home will be informed by your lifestyle and even the layout of the space you live in.
For instance, here in our home in London, I like certain scents in certain rooms, as our way of living in the UK is in very distinct, separate spaces. In the bedroom, I don’t want anything heavy, so I am always spritzing the Seville Orange & Neroli Room Spray in there [Ed. note: not yet available in Australia]. Downstairs is Gaz’s study, so we tend to have Eucalyptus & Cedar Woods in there [Ed. note: not yet available in Australia]. Then in the drawing room and kitchen, I have Fig Trees candles burning.
I think that’s quite different to the way you might use scent in your home in Australia. I am so inspired by the Australian lifestyle, and the very open plan, indoor-outdoor way your homes are often designed. When we were staying in Portugal, it felt like we could have been in Sydney harbour. The house was all glass, and I loved coming down in the morning and seeing that spectacular view from wherever you were in the room, because it was all so open. Before we take any holidays, we always ship ahead everything Pomelo – it is the scent that absolutely signals holiday time in our family. In Portugal, that’s the candle I put in the bathrooms, and I used to love walking down the corridor that overlooked the whole drawing room, and smell that fragrance starting to rise as you came to the main area of the house with that incredible view.
Fragrance is absolutely about more than just a personal scent that you wear.
For us, the sale of lifestyle scents during lockdown was off the scale. All of our stock we had predicted might sell well was gone in the first few months, and that happened right the way around the world. In lockdown, your own four walls had to become everything – your restaurant, your cinema, your gym. We may not have been able to change our environments, but we could change the way they smelled and then how they felt. People were lighting a certain candle to signal ‘ok, it’s time to work’, and then something else when it was time to put the computer away and shift into a cosier, relaxed atmosphere. We made scent sticks last year [Ed. note: Jo Loves Fragrance Diffusers are not yet available in Australia], which I wasn’t originally hugely into, but everyone in the company absolutely loved them. And I do understand there might be circumstances where a candle just isn’t practical! I said I’d only consider doing them if they looked like a piece of art, and what we came up with was absolutely beautiful. Bringing life to a space with the combination of how a product looks and smells is really important.
As the world slowly opens up, there are all sorts of situations where a scent can help to define who you are, or set the mood you want to evoke.
One opportunity for that I find really interesting, and that I think we will see more of, is in business spaces like WeWork, where a lot of companies are sharing one generic space. In that scenario, scent can become a really powerful way to communicate what you’re doing.
Maybe a small silver lining of this time we have all been through is that more and more people have seen that scent has become unbelievably powerful. It takes us out of our screens, for a start, and then it can do all sorts of things – it can ground us, relax us, energise us, let us dream, or connect us to one another.”