Interview with ROJA DOVE
Today we have a great opportunity to have an interview with outstanding fragrance historian, one of the best perfumers of all-time and Professeur de Parfum– Mr. Roja Dove. Mr.Dove, many thanks for finding a gap in your precious time for the interview.
Thank you for speaking with me, it’s a pleasure to talk with you.
You are known as a celebrated 'nose' and for having the ability to identify 800 scents blindfolded. How do you manage, having such superpower, to protect yourself from the unwished everyday scents around you?
Well, the first thing I would say – and I don’t say this to be humble – is that it really isn’t a super power. I am touched that some may think it so, but the truth is that it is no different to being someone with good rhythm who has practiced at an instrument or trained their body to dance. I have a heightened sense of smell in comparison to most, that is true, but the abilities I have honed with it is through a constant training of my nose and the knowledge I pick up along the way. Having said that, there are times that I find smells too much. For example, I cannot travel on the London Underground, as it is like a cacophony of unpleasant smells to me. I also had to once ask for a flight attendant to be removed from my service as her perfume was making me physically sick. The phrase “blessing and a curse” can be attributed to a heightened sense of smell…
If we were to say to a bunch of people, who know you well, “Give me three adjectives that best describe Mr. Dove”, what would we hear?
I would hope that one word they use would be ‘kind’, as I always make a pointed effort to be nice to everyone around me. My mother always taught me the importance of treating people with kindness and respect. I also love to make those around me feel at ease and I love to hear laughter around me, so I hope another word would be “funny” or “humorous”. I would hope the last thing people remember me for is perhaps as being “interesting”, as I believe I don’t shy away or become a wallflower, and I believe that I always have something of substance to bring to a conversation.
We are aware that your interest in fragrance was sparked at an early age when your mother kissed you goodnight and her fragrance lingered your room long after she had gone. Do you think that episode developed your talent or the person must be born with it?
I don’t think something like this can spark a talent, as some people are just born with a natural affinity for things. What this episode did was spark an enduring love for scent and put me on the path I was meant to walk down in life. It just happened that I found a love for perfume and similarly discovered that I had a natural aptitude with my nose. But the love of the history and business of perfume requires no talent, just a very curious mind and an unfailing interest in committing the topic to memory.
Could you tell us about the time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
I don’t believe I ever really had that moment? I was very lucky in that my mother always put it to myself and my siblings that there is no reason why anyone can’t do anything. She had this simple phrase that would always quell any self-doubt: “why not?” – and that was enough to get us to do things. I have always felt that if you are to do something then you should do it to the best of your abilities, and that is precisely what I have done with all of my work. I have always striven for the best and figure that if someone doesn’t like it then that’s fine – that is their opinion. I know in my heart, I have done everything I can.
Which of your own fragrance range is your favorite and why?
Well, my most cherished blends are found in my ‘Haute Luxe Collection’, which are the scents which are most personal to me. A Goodnight Kiss captures the moment I fell in love with fragrance, whilst Great Britain celebrates me being named an Ambassador for the GREAT Britain Campaign – the proudest moment of my career. The one entitled ‘Roja’ is quite simply my own fragrance. I had worn “Mitsuoko” for 30 years and one day began a new bottle to find the formula had changed. So I decided to create something for myself using all the ingredients I loved the most. It is, to me, the most beautiful blend of raw materials. After being asked for many years what it was and where people could get it, I decided to release it as a Roja Parfums creation in a small quantity each year.
You were honored with the position of Global Ambassador, the first non-Guerlain family member to be given this role. What is your vision and secret of success?
Many years of hard work and a love for what I was doing. The same attitude that has brought me success in all my endeavors working at my own firm.
Tell us something that is true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That Roja Parfums is not overpriced. Some may look at my work and feel any type of way when they see the price tags. It is natural and I understand that. The truth is that the price reflects the quality of the raw materials used in the formulas. The oils I work with are the finest examples of their sort; the finest that can be found in the world. For example, I use real Ambergris, from the whale, as opposed to its synthetic, Amber. It is a completely ecological material and costs £90,000 for one kilo. I also use Rose de Mai, which required over 300,000 flowers picked before noon in May to make one kilo of oil. It is rarely used in Perfumery and yet I make a candle entirely out of it. So these rare and precious materials are what makes my perfumes the price that they are. And the part that many don’t know is that the mark-up my brand puts on our products is the lowest in the industry. Ml for ml, Roja Parfums is the best value for money.
How long does it take you to create a new fragrance, from the very beginning until the production stage and how would you describe Roja Perfumes in three words?
The three things that I wanted my brand to be when I created it are: “Creative, Opulent and Enduring”. The process of creation can take anywhere from 3-12 months to complete. My small home in the deepest, darkest depths of London’s Mayfair is also my creative space. I have hundreds of examples of raw materials lining the walls and my workstation, where I work from a custom-made Perfumer’s Organ. I blend each scent by hand and will work on the formula for any manner of months; not consistently but I will always come back to it to make sure I am happy with it. When I am ready to release it to the world, I will send the formula off to be compounded in Grasse, where it is then sent back to England to be diluted, filled and packaged. All of this is done by hand and whilst I can’t tell you exactly how long each one takes, as it can differ depending on the presentation, but it is a lengthy process either way.
What are your other hobbies and interests that inspire you? Maybe you are a collector of fine arts or anything else?
I love Fine Arts and I particularly love the Art Deco period. My home is filled with decorative items mostly from the 1920’s and early 1930’s. I also love classical music and opera, as well as the ballet. The other thing that I collect is Jewellery, a love I got from my mother, who taught me how to spot a good diamond. I have always said that if I wasn’t a Perfumer I would have wanted to have been a Jeweller.
A part of the Roja Parfums reputation is based upon your principle of using the finest quality ingredients. We assume you travel all around the world to achieve this. What countries do you prefer to travel and how many new smells in your opinion are there still to discover for the humanity in near future?
I am incredibly lucky that my job allows me to travel all over the world, seeing all sorts of place, meeting all sorts of people, and seeing all sorts of things. As an example, I spent two weeks each month for three years in the Middle East, where I learnt about Aoud. This type of research is what allows me to work with the finest quality materials the world has to offer but also how to work the material properly, rather than just chucking it in a formula.
I know it sounds sad but my favorite place to be is at home. I spend so little time there that given the option, that is where I will choose to be. Of recent years I have been trying to ensure I have a couple of holidays a year, where I will do nothing but lay in the sun. I am a complete sun worshiper. If I cannot be at home then the place I love to visit the most is the Italian Riviera.
Mr. Dove, what would you like to suggest and to wish the clients of luxury sector and to the clients of BREGNER Luxury & Lifestyle in particular?
I would like to say that Bregner is an extraordinary place to shop and I hope that the addition of Roja Parfums brings a little something extra that the clientele have been hoping for. My creations are the most luxurious examples of their type but I hope Bregner clients love them not just for the opulence of them but by appreciating the quality and the creativity that goes into making them. They are scents that are designed to last, so I hope that clients enjoy allowing these creations to become a part of their lives.
Mr. Dove, many thanks for the interview, we do appreciate it. We wish you and your company every success in the future and all the best in your new adventures and discoveries!
My sincere thanks.