Victoria Meets Jo Fairley

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You might have read one of the many features she’s written for VH over the years, including Getting Your Yoga Mojo Back or the Apps That Make You Happier, but there is more to Jo Fairley than simply being a journalist and over the years she has added many strings to her bow…

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I left school at 16 with 6 ‘O’ Levels – and a lot to prove, having been told by my careers teacher that I would never amount to anything. I trained as a secretary and worked my way up through magazines, becoming the youngest-ever editor of a magazine – Look Now (a title for nice teenage girls) – at 23, then going on to edit the fashion title Honey, where over the three years of my editorship I worked with amazing photographers at the start of their careers, such as Mario Testino and Ellen von Unwerth, and had Mary Greenwell and Sam McKnight as my ‘resident’ hair and make-up team.

I became a freelance writer at 29, writing about everything from sumo wrestling to Romanian orphans via elephant polo, before I was eventually commissioned to write my first beauty feature (actually, a fragrance story, which went on to win a Jasmine Award). Perhaps because I brought a more investigative approach to beauty writing than was the norm, and have always enjoyed amazing access to experts, too, I became very successful at that.

In 1991, I came across a square from a sample bar of chocolate on my soon-to-be-husband’s desk and together we came up with the Green & Black’s brand. For nine years I juggled running that with journalism, also collaborating (from 1996) onwards with my lovely friend Sarah Stacey on our Beauty Bible series of books  (I’ve written 25 books altogether and am rather hoping that’s enough!), as well as our Beautybible.com website.

After Green & Black’s I went on to become a ‘serial entrepreneur’ – converting our local Hastings bakery to organic, putting in an artisan baker and opening a one-stop organic and natural food store, and then two years later opening a nine-room boutique wellbeing centre in Hastings, The Wellington Centre (am proud to say that Gill is a big fan!). I have also launched The Perfume Society – a magnet for perfume-lovers, with a massive informational website, events, and Discovery Boxes of fragrance.

When I write all this down it always rather makes me want to go and have a lie-down – but I do enjoy every challenge!

You’re a renowned journalist and you’re also regularly described as a ‘serial entrepreneur’, how do you strike the work/life balance? 

When I’m on, I’m on, and when I’m off, I’m off. So I never look at e-mails (or even social media) on holiday, or at weekends, when I focus on family and friends. I also do at least one yoga class a week (ideally more), Pilates, and pretty much succeed at getting 10,000 steps a day (measured by the Health app on my iPhone). I swear by essential oils like frankincense for calming, as well as the Annee de Mamiel sleep range and This Works sleep products to ensure I get lots of zzzzzs. But seven hours a night is fine.

If you could give your 18 year old self one piece of advice what would it be?

Worry less about what other people think of you!

Your passion and knowledge of fragrance is second to none, what would your advice be to someone who has yet to find their signature scent?

I am not sure I really believe in a ‘signature scent’ – but the search can be great fun! I agree with Aerin Lauder who always points out that you wouldn’t wear the same pair of shoes with a tennis outfit as an evening dress – so why wear the same fragrance? I think everyone should have a basic fragrance ‘wardrobe': a fresh Cologne-y style scent for white shirt/jeans days, something pretty for work, and a more va-va-voom creation for night. That is a good foundation…

If you’re really looking for a ‘signature’, spend time on the quest. Go to a perfumery where the staff know their stuff (boutiques like POP Perfumery in Knutsford, Les Senteurs in London, Rich Perfumery in Aylesbury, for instance, or the perfumery department of a smaller department store like Fenwick or Fortnum & Mason), and ask for advice – what you’ll get is more akin to a personal consultation.

Spray and smell blotters, and use that process to eliminate what you don’t like before ultimately trying up to three on your skin. Don’t be rushed; live with them and allow them to develop – and only then make up your mind. (Our Perfume Society Discovery boxes are also great for allowing you to try all sorts of fragrances at home and at your leisure…)

What supplements do you take religiously and why?

I take what Shabir tells me to! I’m lucky enough to be advised by him, but that includes Bone Restore by Life Extension (after two nasty wrist breaks a few years back – luckily not at the same time), a vitamin D3 spray by Better You, Magnolia Rhodiola (for stress), Hyaluronic Acid High Strength by Food Science (to keep everything plumped-up and mobile), Guayasa Leaf (for energy), and Power of Krill (for the Essential Fatty Acids). I decant them into Muji see-through containers – I have invested in 28 of them (I think they’re technically travel soap boxes) and I dole them all out on a Sunday every four weeks, to save time uncapping and re-screwing vitamin bottles.

What is your desert island beauty product and why?

As of a couple of months ago, I think it has to be Lixir Universal Emulsion. I took it to India on a trip to a spa recently, and I literally used it all over – face AND body. It does also work as a cleanser, too, at a pinch – with a hot, wet muslin cloth – so it could genuinely be a desert island beauty product!

What do you think the future has in store for the beauty and wellbeing industry?

I think the focus on ‘clean and green’ will continue, because natural formulations now rival, in so many cases, the high-tech versions out there. Sustainability is rising fast up the beauty agenda and we’re going to hear a lot more about recyclability of packaging, and single-use plastic – which as an eco-bunny from way back is great, as far as I’m concerned.

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