It is easy to fall under the charming spell of Roja Dove. Britain’s most prominent perfumer, Roja is on his way to being a legend. The most-quoted perfumer and perfume historian of our time, he lives and breathes his passion every day.
His perfume “store” (quotes are needed, as the Haute Parfumerie is more of a shrine than a mere place of business) and his own line, Roja Parfums, have been Number One on my list of things to do in London, and I visited one and sniffed my way through the other. The highlight of my visit was my conversation with the man himself though.
Roja immediately put me at ease with his friendly and (frankly surprisingly) down to earth way. I had imagined a more exalted and flamboyant man, just seeing from his pictures, but I found him very warm and kind, and seemingly enjoying to regale me with tales from his fragrant universe, despite me probably being the umpteenth person to ask him the same questions.
“You’ll find I’m an easy person to interview”, Roja assured me and he was right of course. He is a born story-teller, someone you love to listen to.
What perfume are you wearing? Are you more of a signature scent type or do you prefer a perfume wardrobe for yourself?
I am wearing my own creation, something that is only for myself and not for sale. For years, for decades really, I was a devoted Mitsouko wearer, but once it was reformulated, I could no longer recognize it as “my” perfume, so I went on a search for a replacement. Not finding anything suitable and “just right”, I made it myself.
I like to experiment with scent in my house, and enjoy scenting different parts of the house differently, but on my person, I am loyal to just the one perfume.
How did the Haute Parfumerie come into being? How do you select perfumes you carry in the shop?
I was asked to open this store by George Hammer, and at first I point blank refused. We sat at the next table from where we are sitting now and he asked right away, whether I would like to open a perfumery store, and I said: No, I just like some tea, please. But in the end, I am glad he suggested it. Since its inception the Haute Parfumerie is doing very well, bringing in a big percentage of Harrod’s sales per year. And the name Haute Parfumerie itself has been taken up here and there, but it was me who used it first.
As for the selection process: I only buy what I like. I’m not bound to take on the entire line of a brand, as is customary, but only select the ones I find worthy. Our store is the only one doing that, our stock represents the best of best, the true Haute Parfumerie.
Your own line, Roja Parfums, has expanded considerably from originally three perfumes, Scandal, Unspoken (my personal favorite) and Enslaved. How do you go about designing your line? How do you decide which perfumes to make?
It all starts with a name. I once sat down on my terrace with a friend, and we started thinking about perfume names. I went ahead and checked the availability of them all, and then starting with the name, I think about what perfume it could become. My range includes perfume from all the genres. It is a complete palette of scents. It should not be possible that all perfumes are loved by everyone, but everyone should be able to find his or her special perfume in my line.
A Roja Parfums bottle, is made by hand in England. Every little detail is thought of, every part of the production process is done by hand. One bottle needs days to be completed. Which is why I only have a limited quantity to sell, this and because I want absolute control over who says what about my scents, is the reason, why I don’t want my perfumes to be sold anywhere else than a very few select places. They are available only at the Haute Parfumerie (and its online boutique) and in a store in Dubai. I personally train my salespersonnel, because a profound knowledge of my perfumes is a necessary part of selling them.
Part II of my interview will follow tomorrow, so please stay tuned!