Profile: Roja Dove
A truly innovative fragrance creator
While this article first appeared in Asia Spa magazine in 2015, I want to share it with Mid Life Edit readers as to me, Roja Dove is a true expert with an exceptional knowledge of perfumery. His storytelling is legendary, as he brings the intoxicating world of scent to life in such a fun and addictive fashion.
The dizzy heights of Haute Perfumery
Often described as ‘inspirational’, ‘a god’ and the founder of modern haute perfumery, Master Perfumer Roja Dove’s unsurpassed knowledge of perfume is legendary. As is the man himself, with his enchanting use of the English language, he brings the mesmerising world of fragrance to life.
Dove’s Haute Parfumerie at London’s iconic Harrods is a wonderland of exquisitely carved glass bottles showcasing some of the greatest perfumes in history, many of which have been specially recreated for Roja Dove to stock. “I coined the term Haute Parfumerie when I was invited by Harrods to open my own boutique in the store,” he explains. “I wanted to stock only the most influential, innovative, directional and luxurious perfumes the world had to offer – the Haute Couture of the perfume industry.” When it came to naming the perfumery, Dove said, "you know, most perfumeries sell the equivalent of prêt-a-porter, it will be like haute couture - like Haute Parfumerie.”
Harrods is a global beacon of luxury shopping and whatever it does the world watches. The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie is no exception as it continues to inspire the fragrance industry to embrace his Haute Parfum concept and follow suit. Ten years on, it now sits at the helm of the store’s new Salon de Parfums, a purpose-built floor dedicated to luxury perfumery.
The early years
Dove’s passion for fragrance is grounded in memories of love, a love for discovering the sensuality of the world in new and surprising ways. “As a small boy I remember my mother standing in the doorway to my bedroom wearing a gold lamé cocktail dress that made her look magical in the light from outside. As she leaned down to kiss me goodnight, her scent left an imprint on me that determined my destiny as a perfumer. I am not sure I would be able to describe her in a fragrance, as it is such a personal, individual experience. The smell was a combination of fragrances, so if I were to describe her as one fragrance it would be the scent of profound inspiration.”
This same fascination stirred in childhood hasn’t waned. After attending Cambridge University, Dove’s eyes were firmly set on the great perfume house Guerlain. To him, there was no other possible employer. During his 20 years with Guerlain, Dove accrued much of the knowledge and experience that defines him today, while also becoming the first ever non - family member in the company’s history to become their Global Ambassador.
It is this artistic magic that rouses Dove to create perfumes that are undoubtedly amongst the world’s finest. The ultimate perfectionist, his ethic ‘that it will do, will never do’ reigns. To this end, a creation is not finished until there is nothing he can do to make it better. “I use the very finest quality materials such as jasmine from Grasse in the south of France - it takes five million flowers picked by hand and costs over £32, 000 per kilo and is incomparable.
I could have used any Rose in my fragrances, but I only work with the best. And so I opt to use Rose de Mai, which must be picked before it is exposed to the sun, as the quality of oil will start to diminish as the sun intensifies. It takes approximately 300,000 of these roses to produce one kilogram of oil.”
Before opening his Haute Parfumerie Dove was creating bespoke fragrances for an elite clientele. Once open, demand for his fragrances quickly grew. Realising this niche, Dove was adamant that if he was to create his own fragrances they had to be just that - creative.” So began Roja Parfums.
“In conjunction with creativity, my ethos was that [my perfumes] had to epitomise quality by using only the finest materials. For me, luxury is something that cannot be bettered and it is quite commonly something that is not easily readily available. With Roja Parfums, I wanted to change that by making the finest fragrances in the world ready-to-wear.”
From a scientific perspective, scent is the most profound of all the senses with each odour stimulating the synapses located in the most primitive part of the brain – the cerebellum. As the synapses are stimulated they trigger a release of hormones that govern every bodily function or action. “Scent works like a cat-burglar,” he adds. “It intrudes unannounced into our minds and soul. It unlocks the floodgates to memories and emotions, leaving a profound imprint in our mind. It is the most intimate of senses and it is as individual as our own fingerprint because it is totally dependent on our life experiences.”
Dove’s enduring favourite scent is Guerlain’s Mitsuoko, “One day, I sprayed it on myself, as I had done every day for the past thirty years, and found that it was not the same – its formula had changed. Instead of finding myself a new signature scent I thought I would simply just make it for myself. That way I could ensure it was perfect, unique and mine. Nine months later the scent, that to the artist epitomised perfection, was born. “After ten years of people constantly asking me what I was wearing – and where they could get it – I eventually decided the time was right to share it with the world. It now goes by the name of Haute Luxe and continues to be my favourite smell.”
Aston Martin, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Laurent-Perrier, are just some of the prestigious global institutions that have turned to Dove for his individual style, personal touch and absorbing uniqueness. He chooses prudently and only works with those that epitomise creativity and uncompromised luxury. “What makes my collaborations special to me is that they are always an adventure: a unique experience in themselves as no two endeavors are the same,” he adds. “The V&A, for example, asked me to create the scent of creativity. A broad and subjective field in itself, this proved a challenging and exciting experience for me as a perfumer.“
He is currently focused on expanding the Roja Parfums brand worldwide, while continuing to do justice to his role as Creative Ambassador for the GREAT Campaign - Britain’s biggest ever tourism and awareness drive to encourage more international visitors and investors to the UK.
“I have always said that I have lived the life I was born to lead. At some specific, long lost moment, a fragrant molecule entered my being and I was forever changed, my destiny was forged, it’s path galvanised. There was no other path to tread than that of perfumery, and along its colourful brick-road I have encountered the work of mighty geniuses who allow their creativity to become part of our core, our being, our ID - as it stops us dead in our tracks, brings tears to our eyes or smiles to our faces. How can anyone not love perfumery?”