The concept of a signature, bespoke fragrance will cease to be the exclusive domain of the affluent few when luxury London perfumer Jo Malone opens its first door in Manila today, Oct. 9, at Greenbelt 5, Makati.
While the idea of layering fragrances isn’t new, Jo Malone has trademarked the very practice of “Fragrance Combining” in its line of colognes, and bath and body creams to create unique and personal scents for each individual.
Meaning, you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars or wait up to a year to have a fragrance created and concocted specially for you. With over 400 possible fragrance combinations at Jo Malone, customers can get the next best thing to having a bespoke scent.
“We have different fragrance families” —Citrus, Fruity, Light Floral, Floral, Woody, Spicy—“and 21 fragrances. You can wear them alone or layer them beautifully. It’s the trademark philosophy of Jo Malone, and it’s unique to us,” said Debbie Wild, Jo Malone lifestyle director, on a recent visit to give Manila a preview of what’s to come.
Unlike other perfumers whose idea of fragrance layering entails topping a scent with the same—say, rose-scented perfume on top of rose-scented bath gel and body lotion—Jo Malone encourages mixing things up— Blackberry & Bay Cologne on top of Lime Basil & Mandarin Body Crème, for instance.
“There’s no rule, and there are no wrong combinations. You can have fun choosing what works for you,” Wild said. When a customer walks into the store, a “fragrance stylist” is at hand to assist in the process at the “tasting bar,” which includes asking for your preferences. “We start with something you’re comfortable with and work your way up.”
It’s important to try because what you smell and like on someone else might not work for you, said Wild.
“It’s not the fragrance’s fault. Sometimes it’s your body’s chemical reaction. Something might smell great on your friend and you like it, but when you put it on it smells totally different on you.”
Choosing a fragrance is a lot like fashion, she added. Sometimes you put something on and realize it isn’t you. The fragrance stylist’s job is to guide you through that, just like a fashion stylist would about your wardrobe. The service is complimentary.
“You can walk away and see how it wears through the day,” Wild suggested. “But generally, within minutes, a fragrance will turn if it doesn’t suit you.”
As a starter, one can buy a couple of 30-milliliter cologne bottles, or a cologne in combination with a body wash or crème. “A lot come to us after being given a [Jo Malone] candle,” said Wild.
In a hot country like the Philippines, she suggested wearing body crème before spraying cologne, as the fragrance gets better through the day. “Fragrance fades much quicker in a hot country because of heat and humidity. You have to make fragrance stick on to your skin.”
Jo Malone’s range of colognes is unisex, and Wild marveled at discovering how Asian men love florals.
“They push the boundaries that way, same as in the Middle East. You don’t need to do a lot of convincing for a man to go for floral if you mix it up with some freshness. So you finish with a clean, masculine scent: sandalwood, cedar, vetiver and patchouli. It’s not too heavy but heavy enough to last.”
The brand caters to a wider demographic as it’s positioned as timeless and ageless.
“A lot of scents can be era-stuck,” Wild opined. “Nutmeg & Ginger, our first fragrance from 1994, I’ll put it with Mimosa & Cardamom, our newest, and it smells as modern and fabulous as it did in the day. It’s the mix of vintage and modern.”
Jo Malone was born in the kitchen of its eponymous creator way before she set up her own shop in 1994. She was a facialist like her mother, and began concocting potions using natural materials. Her first was a bath oil using a unique combination of nutmeg and ginger, which she gave away as gifts to her clients.
In 1999, Estée Lauder acquired the company while Malone stayed on as its chair and creative director. She sold her stake entirely in 2006 after battling breast cancer.
The Philippines is the 35th market for Jo Malone, and Estée Lauder has partnered with Suyen Corp. (Bench Group) in opening the perfumer’s first retail outlet in Manila, located at the old Aldo Accessories space atGreenbelt 5.
The company is a popular gifting brand, with its signature cream box and black grosgrain ribbon.
“Fragrance is personal, it’s memories in a bottle, just like music,” said Wild.
Jo Malone isn’t a follower of trends, said Wild. “Always expect the unexpected. We’re leaders. We’re influenced by the world around us—music, arts, literature. We’re global travelers. We bring back spices, flowers, new tastes. We put new twists on an original ingredient. There’s a lot of British heritage in what we do, and the contemporary use of ingredients. We also use the unexpected, so there’s a also quirkiness.”
Global consumers are now learning to experiment, even as they’re loyal to certain scents, said Wild. Their role at Jo Malone is to nudge these desires in directions that inspire their customers to wear something new and different.
While a fragrance purchase isn’t an impulse buy as much as buying lipstick, people buy them for the same reasons as when they pick up that tube of rouge—to get noticed and make an impression, Wild said.
“If you really like it and it’s good on you, but it’s out of reach money-wise right now, eventually you might treat yourself.”
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