Interview with Roja Dove - Part Two {Passion for Perfume - Portrait}

Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie.jpg
 The Haute Parfumerie at Urban Retreat, Harrods
Today is the second installment of our interview with London-based fragrance expert Roja Dove. Please visit here for Part One,

Marie-Hélène Wagner: And so, logically, you are going to add more fragrances then, to cover more families? Oh, maybe?

Roja Dove: Maybe, maybe. It depends where you see the other families being. In my opinion, the citrus family is a sub-section of the chypres. So maybe I might make an eau somewhere along the line, I think it’s not very likely. I already have one, very beautiful one in the “hidden fragrances.”..........

MHW: “The Hidden Roja Dove Fragrances” [laughter]

RD: Yes [laughter].

MHW: The Secret..... [laughter]

RD: I don’t really have a plan with any of these you know. I think that it will, I think it will just take on a natural life. They will do what they do. I am working at the moment on a masculine fragrance. It will come whenever it comes. There is no great marketing plan behind this. It is a totally creative process, which maybe people think is mad. I’ve no idea.

MHW: I don’t know [laughters], some fragrances have succeeded thanks to their sheer qualities so…..

RD:  That’s what I hope and without wanting to be arrogant. That’s what I have been saying with these. People say, when will you do this and this? I say I have no idea. Time will tell what will happen. The consumer will decide.  

MHW: Yes, and on the other hand I was just thinking of this point, the fact that Les Parfums de Rosine are often, you know, quoted as an example of (early) bad marketing that could have gone right if it had been done better but then I read this interesting remark by Edmond Roudnitska who said that there were problems with the compositions of Les Parfums de Rosine. So I don’t know precisely why, but it was interesting to see that, you know, there is this dynamic between the commercial and creative sides.

RD: I think that one of the big problems with the Rosine perfumes, I presume you’re meaning the original ones….. [editor’s note: the brand has been resurrected by Marie-Hélène Rogeon]

MHW: Yes, the original ones, yes.

RD: I think that not to have the faith in your own name, to put your name, to use your daughter’s name would be one problem straightaway because suddenly you have to create who is Rosine, you have to create a story, whereas of course Paul Poiret  was such a revolutionary that certainly up until the Second World War he had his own following. Anyhow. So and I hope that, again, without being arrogant my name is known enough that I hope it will intrigue people. You know I hope that it will intrigue people to sort of ask the question: well, we’ve read his thoughts for long enough, now you know, so OK, so he has these very strong views and very strong opinions

MHW: Absolutely

RD: And I’ve banged on for years who created perfumery and the quality of high grade natural materials so I’m sure that lots of people will be intrigued to try them who just will want to make a critique of the work I’ve done

MHW: Certainly, there was this question raised by Octavian Coifan who visits the blog and he is a perfume historian and he pointed out that there might be a problem with the name “Scandal” because it referred to such a classic…

RD: The old André Fraysse’s Lanvin....

MHW: Yes…what is your point of view here?

RD: Well of course I’m aware that “Scandal” was a name of Lanvin. We of course have taken all the names with copyright lawyers and the name they say is totally free.

MHW: All right....

RD: It seems that they haven’t got the name going which I was very surprised by it. They have just re-used their name “Rumeur”, which again as you know is an old perfume. “Scandale” I think they had with an “e” on the end, I don’t know if that’s right.

MHW: I haven’t seen it. I have seen it without the “e” precisely and I verified that to see, you know, if there was this detail missing or added and….

RD: I have no idea. We went to the copyright lawyers to register the name and they have done every normal search, so, to my knowledge, the name was free and we were able to to use it.

MHW: Okay

RD:  But we did it with all the names because you can’t, not. That’s the normal process of course.

MHW: A different question now. Do you think there are masculine and feminine accords, masculine and feminine perfumes, gender-oriented perfumes?

RD: I’ve always believed that there is no such thing as gender to fragrance. I think gender is totally about marketing image. I think that as a woman, skin smells totally different to a man’s skin. A fragrance will therefore interact differently upon it. I think that it is always fascinating that women have no issue wearing men’s fragrances. I don’t know any woman who would be hung up about the idea of using some masculine accord and if you look at some of the big successes, fragrances like Eau Sauvage for example and women took that in their droves when it was launched. There are of course far fewer men who are happy to wear fragrance, and if it says “for men” on it, and I’m sure that, I mean fundamentally these are aimed as women fragrances. We haven’t put something on them saying one thing or the other. They are aimed much more at a feminine clientele but I already know one or two men who will wear one or two of the fragrances.

MHW: Yes, so that there is a little bit of room for personal inspiration

RD: Always, there’s always room for personal inspiration

MHW: So then of course it’s always interesting to ask you if you had some great classic references of perfumery when you created this recent trio of perfumes?

RD: Well, no, mmm. Scandal, definitely not. Scandal sits by itself. It was the other way around one is I wanted to be certain, was that it didn’t have that sticky quality of fragrance like Fracas. Once I adored Fracas and think it’s phenomenal, a phenomenon. I didn’t want, you know, the classical Fracas, Chloé, Jardins de Bagatelle,… that type of harmony. I think that what I did with it was I looked at everything I didn’t want it to be rather than, and it would be interesting when eventually you smell them because all the press, I mean we had 97 press turn up at press launch. We launched it at the Claridges and 95 journalists said they would come so we expected 65 because you normally expect a third to drop out and in fact 97 turned up.

MHW: Laughter

RD: Everyone that came up to me and smelled them said that what they loved, was that they couldn’t place them…

MHW: Ah, interesting

RD: They couldn’t say “oh, this reminds me of”…..I mean if I take something like Spoken which is the Chypré I would have to say that, really hidden in the base you discover little aspects of Tabac Blond and little aspects of Mitsouko. But the whole has nothing to do with either of them. It has this overdose of jasmine on the top and the Grassois jasmine has this wonderful almost fruity note to it. But it’s not a fruity note like you find in Femme or Mitsouko nor is it a fruity note like you find in a fruity floral….

MHW: It’s subtler?

RD: It’s amazing, it’s just different

MHW: Ok, ok….

RD: And the jasmine note in it is enormous. It almost shouldn’t be there. And I also played around generally on the chypré, the wood note you’re going to discover, you’re getting the vetiver, the classical wood note is cedar wood and in this I chose to use sandalwood. I thought it was interesting to put sandalwood and it has a tiny, tiny whisper of vanilla in it. So it has a lot of things that wouldn’t be in a classical structure and I think that whilst all three of them take their inspiration from classical perfumery they do purely through the discipline of the structures and also though the quantity and quality of the natural materials but I really haven’t glanced backwards with these fragrances. I’ve used my knowledge of a lifetime now, of working with perfumes both old ones and new ones. I think I’ve beaten my own drum with them. The story of Unspoken….this is a very, very loose image. I always think it’s funny that people think that the English are very, very…maybe the reputation is destroyed now but people always used to think that the English were always very, very mmmm., reserved people.

MHW: Yes, there is this stereotype, absolutely, yes.

RD: Indeed, and so I mean if you compare the image people have of, the English, say, compared to the Latin,

MHW: Laughter, the French, yes.

RD: One is cold and one is warm.

MHW: [My response was buried in laughter, again!]

RD: [laughing] Indeed. But I think that….I have this whole story on the chypres

 {To be continued......}

(Part Three will be a discussion on chypres versus orientals.)

Here are the links to Part One and Part Three of the interview. 

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1 Comment | Leave a comment

  1. [...] Learning about the creative process behind the trio has been and *is* a real treat. Pity the plebeian me is unlikely to ever try them. Unless, of course, I headed straight to London, Harrods, wearing my perfumista badge and the secret omniscient smile. :-) or should it be :-(


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