Roja’s comments and his great expertise are quoted in relation to nearly every manufacturer of fragrance in the world, as an inspirational speaker at events his anecdotes keep world-wide audiences on a rollercoaster of laughter, astonishment and fascination. Roja knows the rules of perfumery, he knows the rules of business and he knows what the market has done, is doing and will be doing next year.
Roja Dove is not rare. Roja Dove is unique. There are celebrated noses in the multi-billion international business of perfumery and there are small pools of astonishing creativity in what has become a corporate, highest of high tech; but anyone who asks for real knowledge—for a sorcerer’s grasp of what really happens in the perfumery industry is always, always referred to Roja Dove.
Roja’s fascination with fragrance began at a very early age when he was kissed goodnight by his mother. Later beguiled by the magical odours and exotic names of the many different scents available, Roja’s interest developed into a passion. He celebrated his 21st birthday with a visit to the Guerlain Boutique on the Champs-Elysées; this visit decided him on his career – he was going to work for them.
Having decided his path, Roja started to research the House, bombarding the global subsidiaries for information. Eventually to shut this young man up, Robert Guerlain decided that this level of enthusiasm was better harnessed inside their company and he was recruited to work in training and public relations with a special remit within fragrance. Six years later he was bestowed the title of the world’s sole ‘Professeur de Parfums’, later becoming Guerlain’s Global Ambassador – the first non Guerlain family member to hold this honour.
Throughout his years in perfumery, and his constant travelling and lecturing, Roja has become the fragrance connoisseurs’ connoisseur, sharing his passion of the mysteries of perfume, whilst working with all the top names the industry has to offer. However, this is by no means all. Roja is a perfumer, creating his own fragrances, but like the true original he is, even this started differently. Launched at a charity event at Christie’s Auction House in London, Roja began creating bespoke fragrances for a very exclusive clientele.
In 2004, Roja opened The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie – the world’s most luxurious, rarefied perfumery. Nestling amongst the black lacquer and crystal are a thousand bottles, each one full of the finest, the most creative, the best that the world of fragrance has to offer; famous names vie to shine out in such elated surroundings. It has become the benchmark for true luxury and opulence, for everything that is perfect in the world of fragrance.
Roja’s bespoke fragrance work, and the demand in the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie for quality fragrances, both convinced and inspired him to start to create a fragrance in each of the three main fragrance styles; nearly three years later the trilogy of Roja Dove’s first commercially available fragrances was launched – Scandal, Unspoken and Enslaved.
Roja continues to pass on his unsurpassable knowledge at prestigious charity events across the globe and at culturally important lectures from The Barbican or Victoria & Albert Museum in London, or across the Atlantic to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, mesmerising his audiences wherever he goes, whilst also enthralling the readers of publications, such as Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, or Wallpaper, that he is commissioned to write for – always with his individual style and a personal touch.
For Roja the south of France is very important, not only does he feel is it the home of modern perfumery but it is where he discovered it and also grew up. When visiting Théoule-sur-Mer, Roja describes the air as heavy with the smell of dried lavender that has been scorched by the sun. There is also the smell of eucalyptus and pure heat, which is a very evocative, special smell and beyond in the distance he loves seeing Nice and Cannes shimmering in the heat. When Roja ventures up to Grasse, he describes the air as being much cooler and the smells become softer away from the heat near the sea. In May you can smell the Rose de May, which is a very specific rose that grows only in that region. It has the most highly praised smell of all the roses and it takes just more than 3,000 blossoms to produce a kilo of the oil. It has a very soft, sweet, delicate scent.
In the summer you have the Grassoise jasmine a luxury oil of extremely high quality and therefore very expensive, it takes 5 million flowers to produce one kilo of oil and Roja pays around £32,000.00 a kilo.’ Only ever used by a highly skilled perfumer, it will raise the standard and the price of a perfume. Very few people grow Grassoise jasmine and as far as Roja is aware he is the only private individual who buys it for creation, but apparently to smell it in the heat is wonderfully overwhelming.
The genuine passion, with which Roja speaks about fragrance, and the evocative language he uses, touches all who listen— he unlocks the mysteries of fragrance and truly conveys the emotion and artistry which made the truly great compositions great.
Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie – Harrods, London
Prestige Interview with Roja Dove
Describe to us that defining moment with your mother that sparked your interest in fragrance?
When my mother came to kiss me goodnight as a small boy aged five or six. I remember her standing in my doorway, she was wearing a gold lame cocktail dress, lit from behind, it was as if she had a corona around her. I had only seen such an image in a book, maybe as a picture of something magical. As she kissed me goodnight, her scent finished the metamorphoses and determined my destiny.
What was the first scent you wore?
Eau de Lavande by Balenciaga. I adored it and felt terribly smart whenever I wore it.
What scent are you currently wearing?
A scent I created, as the one I used for many years no longer smells like the scent I remember as it has been altered.
Tell us about your time at Guerlain as Professeur de Parfums.
I worked for Guerlain for a few months short of twenty years and was the first person to represent the brand as a global ambassador who was not a member of the family. It was at Guerlain that I learnt the art of perfumery – I never had any doubt that this was the only company I wanted to work for as I admired the house so much and thought Jean-Paul Guerlain to be a genius, and his grandfather, Jacques Guerlain, I consider to be the greatest perfumer to have lived.
Tell us how Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie in Harrods came about.
I was invited for a cup of tea by a man called George Hammer. Before I was seated he said I would like to open a perfumery with you. I was so surprised I said I would just like a cup of tea please. After we spoke for a while I thought maybe it would be a good idea to open a shop and Harrods has to be the greatest store on earth to open a shop in – so I agreed.
I decided that I wanted to open a perfumery that only stocked the scents that I thought were the very best examples of their type, and so the perfumery is the only one in the world where someone has been able to go to the houses and select only the scents that I believe fitted my criteria – an edited selection of the very best, not the industry norm of having to represent the brands main catalogue.
When it came to naming the perfumery, I said, “you know, most perfumeries sell the equivalent of pret a porter, it will be like haute couture – like haute parfumerie”. And so the name was a born, the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie. I was the first person to use this term, it has now entered the mainstream, with many other companies using it.
What made you decide to create your own range of fragrances?
Before I opened the Haute Parfumerie, I had already started creating bespoke fragrances for an elite clientele: the first one was auctioned at Christies for a charity and fetched the highest price which told me there was a demand. When I opened the perfumery, many people thought I was sitting there blending fragrances, which of course was not the case. That said so many people came asking for my fragrances that I realised there was a demand and so I created a floral, Scandal, a chypre, Unspoken, and an oriental, Enslaved. They were a huge success.
Many stores around the globe have asked to stock them, but I have always said no as we were not set up to cater for the demand. Last year I launched Roja Parfums on the ground floor of Harrods. We will keep the Haute Parfumerie, my three existing creations, along with three newer feminine scents, two men’s, an Aoud, and fifteen candles. We will also launch in Europe and the Middle East and America this year (2012).
Roja at work
Can you tell us about your bespoke fragrance service.
I was asked to create a scent for a charity auction at Christies. Manolah Blanik put up a pair of shoes with the original drawing of them, Mercedes put up a new sports car, and there was a holiday for eight in the Maldives. I decided to ask Baccarat, I had very good friends working there at the time, if they would re-blow an art deco bottle I loved for me, they said yes, and so I decided to put up the empty bottle as my auction lot. The winner would then have a scent made for them to put into it. It fetched the highest price at the auction, so then I knew there was a clientele out there who did not want to smell like everyone else and were happy to pay the price and wait to have their own scent made.
I never speak to the press about this service unless they ask, and never give my clients names. Discretion is an important part of the appeal. My clients are not brash or showy, they are some of the most pre-eminent people in their respective worlds and love the fact that they know the secrets shared, ream in just that.
Which fragrance of yours is your favourite & why?
I love one of my semi bespokes, it is called ‘V’. I love how rich, warm, and sensual it is. I will wear it until the day I no longer remember it’s formula!
How important is the bottle in the making of a perfume?
The bottles are very important – take Clive Christians Imperial Majesty as a perfect example with its five carat diamond in the collar sitting atop the half litre Baccarat crystal bottle. Everyone wants to know what the scent inside such a creation smells like. That said if the scent is not good the consumer will never come back for the second, third, and fourth bottle. Which is why brands like Clive Christian, Houbigant, Xerjoff, Pure Distance, and the lavishly beautiful creations by Baccarat for Grossmith attract the consumer, but each of these houses key emphasis is on the liquid inside.
Lots of perfume houses use a celebrity in their advertising campaign, how do you feel about this?
We live in a world driven by celebrities – for many it is almost an obsession. I luckily am very happy in my skin, in my own world, and so really do not care who is being paid to be the ‘face of’. If it makes a consumer happy, great. It will always make the brand and the model/celebrity happier than the consumer though as they are the ones who count the return of the consumers investment. If a scent is great a consumer will always sniff it out.
How do you feel about the current trend of celebrities launching their own fragrances?
I believe there should be something for everyone. They are generally unsophisticated, synthetic, and vapid.
What makes a great fragrance and should the price be a reflection of the quality?
Price does not always reflect quality. If a house is paying to use a famous face and is conducting huge marketing campaigns on TV, magazines and newspapers, the money to pay for it has to come from somewhere – so of course the formulae cannot be as good as from some small brands who invest everything into the content of the bottle. This is a huge question to answer and what I am saying is a generalisation, but everything today is about ‘the brand’. The brands then get bought up by huge corporations who are always looking at the bottom line and have the financial wear, with all, to create an image that seduces us, the scent is often secondary. Many small companies pay a fortune for the content of their creations and don’t have spare money to advertise, and retail their scents at the same sort of price as the larger houses. It is important to understand that when I buy Jasmine and pay £32,000 per kilo it really does smell different to the Jasmine that costs £150 kilo.
That was a very hard question to answer!
Do you believe in the “signature scent”?
I think it is great to have many fragrances for mood etc, but I think there is little that beats being known and remembered for having your own, signature scent.
What should we buy – parfum or eau de toilette?
With an eau de toilette approximately 80% will disappear within four hours, with perfume approximately 50% lasts for twenty four hours. So perfume is the most long lasting and is also the softest and most refined.
How would you advise us to purchase a fragrance for someone else?
Find out the ‘family’ the scent the person uses and at least try to find one from the same one. If they love niche perfumery make sure the one you choose is of that type, (think Houbigant or Grossmith) or mainstream fashion brand (think Chanel or Dior) etc.
What advice would you give to someone shopping for a fragrance?
Take time, never take a friend, and never go out wearing scent
Can you tell us why you are in the South of France at the moment?
I have been in Provence as it has been Mimosa season – and more importantly I think it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
What would you say have been the iconic fragrances from the last 20/30 years?
Clive Christian No1, Angel, Cool Water & L’Eau d’Issey
Finally Roja, please will you divulge your client list to Prestige.
“No,” (he smiles), because I know, you know who some of them are.
The Trilogy of Scandal, Unspoken, Enslaved will be re-launched as part of the new Roja Parfums; 100ml Perfume (£375) and 100ml EDP (£175). Roja will be launching new female fragrances (from £175) and ten new scented candles (£75) throughout 2012 to further sublimate the brand.
*Roja Dove Parfums are exclusively available at Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, 5th Floor, Harrods and in Harrods Black Hall Perfumery.
Shop Roja Dove Parfums Now- www.rojadovefragrance.com