Profile: Danielle Ryan
Telling stories through fragrance
(This article first appeared in Asia Spa magazine)
Having created her own cultural lifestyle brand Roads, actress and entrepreuner Danielle Ryan expresses her passion and tells stories through books, films and most recently fragrances.
"Never say never’ would be a fitting motto for young Irish entrepreneur Danielle Ryan. A member of the enigmatic Ryan family (her grandfather, the late Dr Tony Ryan, founded Ryanair), it’s safe to say that this accomplished RADA-trained actress has achieved more in her 30 years than many of us could dream of in a lifetime.
As creator and director of the National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin (The Lir), Ryan, in conjunction with UNICEF, headed up a complete redevelopment of four of the worst affected towns in the war ravaged northern province of Sri Lanka, later addressing the world’s most powerful at the United Nations General Assembly, and all of before founding Roads Luxury Group – her first large-scale commercial venture.
Roads is an international brand comprising three distinct elements – publishing, film production and perfume. “Life is a series of roads that define you,” she explains. “There are many reasons why I wanted to create Roads but, most of all, I wanted to create a brand that would not be limited to a single definition and just one idea.” And whether it’s the theme of a book, the plot of a film or the inspiration for a scent, this multifaceted entrepreneur seems to be getting it right.
But why fragrance?
“Being an actress, once I started researching what theatre groups in New York were doing to push the boundaries of performance, I discovered that fragrance was very subtly being infused into the auditorium to create a powerful subliminal message on the audience. I soon realised how emotive fragrance could be. When something starts itching like that I have to dig deeper.”
And dig deeper she did, launching her first fragrance collection just a couple of months back.
Working closely with the real masters of perfumery, this new collection of ten eau de parfum scents is inspired by places, people, specific moments in history, emotions, experiences and art.
“Fragrance is another form of storytelling. As much as fashion, it gives a sense of who you are, as much as the clothes you wear,” Ryan explains. “Perfume can excite, comfort or give you confidence, and there is a lot more to play with artistically.” Each (of the ten) has a story behind it and each is purposefully very different with one strong oud, one citrus and one floral – something for different occasions, different moods and different seasons.
One of the most talked about is Harmattan, a fresh, seductive fragrance inspired by the wind crossing the Sahara once a year. From the age of 16 Ryan frequently accompanied her father to the desert to stay with Bedouin friends. “It took four to five days to get there, but it is a very special place. Harmattan is powerful and broody, yet calming, as it creates a soft, warm fog in the air with the sand it transports. The desert is oud; with lavender on top, much like the wind running through it – very charming, but quite a serious fragrance. And there’s your personality,” she adds wryly.
Another is Bitter End, her interpretation of Ireland’s wild rugged Western coastline, home of many childhood summers. With a slight pagan wildness at its core, the fragrance is subtle and gentle, opening with the smell of indigenous wild grasses, cooling mints and wet bracken – (all synonymous with the west of Ireland) and grounded in oak moss, violet leaf and vetiver.
Technology is at the heart of White Noise, a modern sense of stillness opening with citrus smells of green apple, lemon balm, mandarin and grapefruit, calmed with tuberose, jasmine and violet on a base of sandalwood, leather amber and vanilla.
The Early Years
Ryan grew up in the business world, but her real passion has always been theatre and visual arts. For this reason she is determined to carry on her family’s philosophy that taught her to tenaciously follow her objectives, however ambitious they might be. Her childhood memories revolve around “very stylish men getting ready for big parties, with intoxicating smells of aftershave and cigar smoke”. And although the Roads collection is unisex, fragrances such as Graduate 1954 are unquestionably more feminine, being developed to reflect a period during which women were obliged to use their femininity and elegance to achieve their goals. In this contemporary twist on a very classical scent, the heady burst of tuberose, frangipani, old rose and heliotrope is lifted with mandarin and muguet and subtly grounded in moss, cedar wood, sandalwood and patchouli.
“Women are starting to wear heavier fragrances now so the line is already becoming blurred as more people are experimenting. Fragrance should suit your skin, your energy and your personality.”
Ryan is currently researching a range of modern African scents to be launched next year. “As an actress a big part of what I do is based on research. The more you learn about your character, the better your character is – and the more I know about it, the more I can tweak it to get it right. It’s more academic. I love researching African ingredients – people think they are heavy and earthy; some are, but many are not. I love unusual smells like printed books, certain plastics, even petrol. I love experimenting. It’s not my style to be too character is – and the more I know about it, the more I can tweak it to get it right. It’s more academic. I love researching African ingredients – people think they are heavy and earthy; some are, but many are not. I love unusual smells like printed books, certain plastics, even petrol. I love experimenting. It’s not my style to be too identifiably me.”