Written by Daniel James Parry
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n a chance meeting with the Aoud master, Roja Dove, The Foxley Docket had the opportunity to discuss his globally recognised perfume range, how he perfected his craft, and his on-going search for the perfect scent.
THE FOXLEY DOCKET: So, to begin with, introduce yourself and give us a little bit about what it is that you do.
ROJA DOVE: My name is Roja Dove, I am a perfumer. I began my career working with Guerlain, where I became the first person from outside of the family ranks to represent the brand as Global Ambassador. I am the owner of my own perfume boutique in Harrods – The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie – which opened in 2004 and stocks what I consider to be a selection of the world’s finest quality perfumes. I was the first to coin the term ‘Haute Parfum’ – a phrase that is used in common parlance today. Along with my bespoke perfume service, I also launched my commercial line, Roja Parfums, in 2011.
TFD: What sparked your interest in the perfume industry? Was it something you always knew you wanted to be a part of?
RD: I remember vividly my mother coming to kiss me goodnight when I was about 6 years old. She was on her way out to a cocktail party and dressed in a gold lamé dress. The light from the hallway illuminated her from behind, transforming her into an ethereal figure. It is an image that will always stay with me. The resonating smell of her face powder and perfume that lingered in the room once she had kissed me goodnight marked the beginning of my love for perfume. As a child I used to steal into my mother’s bedroom and open up her cabinet and smell all of her fragrances – I was obsessed, and still am to this day, with fragrance.
TFD: You were a medical research student at Cambridge University. How did you make the transition to begin your journey in the perfume industry?
RD:I knew I wanted to be a perfumer and I didn’t want to wait – Discovering the world of Guerlain, I became determined to work for them and wrote to the company’s subsidiaries all over the world looking for answers to my questions. Eventually, I was offered a job under the premise I’d be less of a nuisance inside the company that I was outside of it. Initially employed to devise a perfumery-training course for them, I came to work with the family’s last master perfumer, Jean-Paul Guerlain.
TFD: There are so many men and women’s established fragrance brands all over the world, so why should people wear Roja? What sets your perfumes apart?
RD: Having created bespoke fragrances for many of the world’s elite, which are a million miles away from mass-produced fragrances, I hoped I would one day make a collection of commercial fragrances in the same way: no marketing spiel, no advertising budgets, no cost constraints. Roja Parfums is the first time in perfumery history that someone has set about making a balanced palette of perfumes – something for every olfactory taste. The collection takes a bespoke approach, adapted for a commercial range, so that there is something there for every olfactory taste.
TFD: How are your perfumes made? How do you know your ingredients of choice are going to blend well together?
RD: When I create, I always start with the name – when a word takes me, I then think of the story behind that fragrance and how I want to express that story through the composition of materials. For me, a perfumer is a poet or a storyteller, who creates the tangible from the intangible – abstract images that strike at our core. With Reckless I read the quote “reckless maybe – foolish never” and imagined a woman that followed her heart but was no one’s fool. With mischief I wanted to create a scent that reminded me of the springtime flowers from my childhood and with Innuendo I wanted to make a gentle, powdery, floral fragrance that whispers at just a hint of temptation.
TFD: One thing that particularly stands out about your brand is the bottles in which your perfumes are presented in, with each bottle containing fourteen Swarovski crystals. Where did you get the inspiration for this, and how did this relationship begin? How are the bottles made?
RD: The design of the bottle was chosen because its shape is reminiscent of a 1920s Art-Deco style – the time in which perfumery was in its golden age. The plaque found on the front of each bottle is dipped in 18ct gold, engraved, and filled with either black or violet lacquer. The 18ct gold cap is adorned by the 14 custom-cut Swarovski crystals that are a replica of a diamond I wear on my finger. Their individuality, beauty and luxuriousness is just a reference to what is found inside the bottle but most importantly, they are to signify that there is an actual perfumer at the helm of Roja Parfums – that it is a very personal, human brand.
TFD: Last year, you launched your Aoud based ‘Tutti Frutti’ range, ‘Candy’, ‘Sweetie’ and ‘Fruity’. How have these been received, and which one seems to attract the most business? Why do you think this is?
RD: I was delighted to launch these fragrances as I knew customers would be very intrigued by them. They are a very fun new collection that will appeal to a younger demographic than my traditional Aoud line. Each scent is a unique new interpretation of the classic Aoud ingredient, featuring three different gourmand facets. Sweetie is popular because it features a unique ‘Patisserie-Accord’ I made to evoke the scents of edible pleasures.
TFD: Your philosophy towards Perfume is ‘only the best will do.’ What steps are you taking to ensure Roja stays at the top of the perfume industry?
RD: I refuse to compromise on quality and will never make a scent just for the sake of it – I am guided solely by my passion for perfume. Roja Parfums will continue to be a perfumers brand, governed by creativity as opposed to financial gain.
TFD: You’ve been approached by Laurent-Perrier and Aston Martin for your unique style and elegant approach. What did you work with these brands on and how did you find working outside of your area of expertise? What were you able to bring to their business?
RD: For these collaborations I was certainly not working outside my area of expertise as I was creating scents for them, and that is what I do for a living. But with each collaboration, my creative skills are challenged in a different and exciting way. This summer I created a perfumed candle for Laurent-Perrier’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show entry which was in collaboration with Chatsworth House. I worked with The Duchess and explored the grounds of Chatsworth to build a bespoke scent that captures the essence of the garden.
TFD: You were recently appointed as the Creative Ambassador for The GREAT Britain Campaign, alongside Sir Richard Branson, Vivienne Westwood, Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss. How did this come about? How does it feel to in a sense, have your legacy cemented as one of the world’s most respected perfumers?
RD: I am proud to support the GREAT campaign, and to be an Ambassador for Creativity is GREAT Britain. Britain is indeed a creative nation, and although we are home to less than one per cent of the world’s population, the UK has one of the largest creative industries sectors in the world. It is a place where British Creativity can flourish and make fragrances that connect with people around the world.
Find out more about Roja Parfums at: