“Retail wasn’t but being an entrepreneur was. I made face masks at eight years old with yoghurt. I’d go to the markets with my father who was a magician, and part of the magic circle, he would pull rabbits out of hats. I even had a pet Dove called Suki that would sit on my shoulder. When I think back to that time I can’t believe how privileged I was that there was always something creative going on. Creativity and artistry was second nature to me. I couldn’t paint, or draw but I could create fragrance in an unbelievable way.
“I think we ran the risk of thinking shops are only about products and they’re not. Brands need to make people feel really at home. Make the store unbelievable. When I started all over again, it was a struggle to create myself all over again. The difference is I have an amazing sense of what is creative and the confidence to try something new. I have something called ‘the first kiss’, the first time you connect with the brand, you need to remember it like a first kiss. The tapas bar has an engaging process which is so powerful. We paint you with shower gels, body creams, cocktail shakers, it’s so full of imagination.”
“The first time you connect with a brand, you need to remember it like a first kiss”
Jo recalls the time when she went to Shanghai to set up a pop-up tapas bar near The Bund. Within 15 minutes, 500 Chinese people were trying out the body creams and shower gels. Not many people would be able to generate the same effect.
“I was part of the government’s GREAT Festival of Creativity campaign, as an ambassador. All of our stuff got caught in customs, so we had to run to IKEA to buy paint brushes, improvise and borrow cocktail shakers from hotels. From that, we served four courses of fragrance tapas. Camera crews were running to see what we were doing. We had no social media, no Instagram, we just watched China wake up to Jo Loves. It was a really powerful moment.”
Another important quality is the packaging which is as much as a sensory experience itself. The perfumes are put in a beautiful yet simple white box showing the iconic red dot symbol. Inside is scented red tissue paper delicately cushioning the bottle and put inside a red ribboned white bag. When I come to open the Pomelo and White Rose & Lemon Leaves fragrances that Jo was kind enough to give me, untying the ribbon and smelling the tissue makes me feel truly pampered. I get the same excitement as I do opening Christmas presents, full of anticipation and expectation. However the packaging didn’t always incite such enthusiasm. At the start of Jo Loves’ journey it was a rather garish red and black, a distinct contrast from the subtle scents in the Jo Loves range. Now that the packaging has changed to a more classic combination of white and red, is she happy with it?
“Yes! Very happy with it. When you build a business, you evolve behind closed doors, you learn about everything. A business has five senses as much as a person does. What you see, what you hear, the voice, they all develop. The red box was about me trying to find my voice. I was so frustrated and unhappy. As the business started to evolve, the packaging started to grate on me, I knew it wasn’t who I really was. I sat with London design agency Pearlfisher and they said point to the things you love that might inspire packaging ideas. So I pointed to a white wall and white paint. ‘Anything else?’ No. Everything is white. Even my house is white. I love plain white because I can think clearly with it.
“Once I established the colour, I still needed to find my Nike swoosh, my Apple icon so to speak. One day I was sitting in my office and someone had sent me a bottle of nail polish called Shanghai Red – from a young entrepreneurial business called Fingers and Toes. I dripped the polish on the paper and that was it. It was because I’m dyslexic and when I approve any product or package I red dot it. If you feel the packaging the red dot is raised, it reminds me of the moment I found myself. It’s my fingerprint.”
“I don’t really watch what other people are doing, I’ve got to be honest. My personal belief is fragrance allows you to become the artist and choose how you want to smell. How dare I say that fragrance should be for a particular person? I don’t want you to be me, I want you to be you. I think celebrity fragrance is over by the way and I will come out and say that. If a celebrity put their name to a fragrance, do it because it’s full of integrity, not because you want to create a false ideal. Work on what’s beautiful inside the bottle.”