Interview with Roja Dove of ROJA PARFUMS
Roja can you speak briefly about your life growing up if and how scent and creativity was a large part of it?
I essentially first fell in love with fragrance when I was a small boy of about 6 years old. My mother (who was an incredibly happy, vivacious and glamorous individual) was off to a cocktail party and came in to my room to give me a kiss goodnight. She was dressed in a gold lame dress and the light from the landing created a corona around her. As she bent down to kiss me, the smell of her perfume mixed with her face powder left a lasting impression on me. Since then, I became obsessed with the workings of my nose. I would steal into her room and unlock her bedside table, where I would unstopper all her French perfumes and inhale. The obsession grew from there and whilst other boys were spending their pocket money on god knows what, I was saving up for perfumes.
Before you began your journey into the fragrance industry did you have a different path that you planned to follow for your life?
I loved scent as a child but it wasn’t till I reached my 20’s that I realised I could take it from a passion to a career. I wrote to Guerlain so often that they decided I would be less of a nuisance working for them. Before that I had planned to go into languages (I studied Russian, English and French) or medical science.
Can you describe your mental process of creating a scent or what inspires you?
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I am very lucky in that my career enables me to travel a lot, so I am hyper-exposed to amazing people, places and things. The world is a wondrous place and I am able to draw my inspiration from a variety of different places: language, lands and literature to name but a few. I believe that being a perfumer is like being a poet or a storyteller – we create images that strike our very core and the raw materials are our words. I translate what inspires me into the language of scent.
What is your favorite color?
Violet. It is why it is the signature colour of my brand – go into my store and you will find plush violet carpets and drapes; on my personal Haute Luxe collection it is why they feature custom made violet crystal caps; it is why on the inside of some of my scents you will find the perfume sitting on a bed of violet silk. Small hints to my personal life are quite literally woven into the fabric of my brand, because the brand is completely my legacy. And to me violet and gold and the colours that epitomise opulence.
Is there one thing that you could not live without?
Without intending to sound sarcastic in any way: My nose, of course. Well, to be more precise my sense of smell. Without my sense of smell my life would be far less colorful than it is – and as a result far less successful.
Your work has a very wonderful since of character and respect for history. How do you balance that as you push into the future of perfumery?
Thank you, I am glad you have noticed that. I design my scents with the intent that they are a stylish and utterly contemporary, yet in unison managing to pay homage to the past – the great structures and materials of the golden age of perfumery. They are inspired by classic perfumery, but done my way.
Your jackets are known for being beautiful! With that in mind, what can you say about a person finding their personal sense of style?
Yes they are quite something. They are made by a dear friend of mine in London called Stephen Williams, who really gets my style. The important thing to remember about my style is that it is reflective of my personality as a whole – I always say “please don’t take me too seriously, because I don’t”. My style is colorful and a little bit camp – it is fun. I just think that the key to finding your own personal style - whether it be in scent or dress – is to be true to yourself rather than aim to be something, because that is what makes it authentic. That being said I also feel the urge to comment “why not?”. It was my mother’s catch phrase and was something that helped me learn to challenge myself. When men tell me how much they admire my style and wish they could dress this way, I quite simply channel her wisdom and retort with “why not?”.
Love, passion desire...
Love and desire are some of themes that you have created scents about. Do you feel that parfume or scent plays a major role in love or the process of courtship?
Oh without any maybe. Our bodies are quite literally evolved to employ scent to help us find food and find a mate and I strongly believe that perfume is the catalyst for romantic alchemy.
What is a word of advice that you have never forgotten?
It is quite a simple one but “There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers” helped me both grow as a person in the industry and then as a owner of a business. I believe the world works better when people ask questions because knowledge isn’t just power but the removal from ignorance.
Luxury, do you have any thoughts about the direction that the scent world is taking?
The last time I checked, the average price of a perfume bottle was £150, so independent niche and luxury brands are on the rise and continue to succeed in the oversaturated market. Though now conglomerates are swiftly buying up many of these brands in order to extend their reach to a demographic they perhaps couldn’t tap into beforehand, time will only tell if this becomes a cyclical thing for the industry in the end. But for now, luxury perfume is enjoying a renaissance – it is flourishing as the consumer realises their appreciation for scents of quality, creativity and individuality. And how can you ever downgrade from that?
Where can we experience your fragrances?
All over the world. Roja Parfums is currently available in around 180 locations worldwide, with more opening month by month. In North America you can find us in Bergdorf Goodman and Osswald Parfumerie in NYC, Babalu Miami, Wynn Hotel Nevada, Maison Luisant Houston and various Neiman Marcus’ around the country.
Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Just that I believe everyone should get out there and experiment with scent. Make the world a more beautiful (smelling) place!