Roja Dove, described by the New York Times as the legendary ‘master tailor of scent’, considers the greatest accolade of his working career to have been summoned to 10 Downing Street in 2013. There he was appointed as an Ambassador for the GREAT Britain campaign and asked to create a fragrance that captured the essence of Britain for the world’s first GREAT Festival, held in Istanbul.
For someone whose privately owned brand, Roja Parfums, is now available in 250 retail locations spanning over 50 countries, this speaks volumes for Roja Dove’s personal passion for Britain and British creativity and the inspiration they have provided over his long, distinguished career.
Roja says fragrance chose him, rather than the other way around: ‘I fell in love with scent as a small boy, when my mother came to say goodnight and I connected a moment with a person, through the smell. I loved how varied the effects of her scents were and they fuelled a fantasy. It was like a genie taking me on a journey somewhere.’
Roja spent 20 years working at France’s oldest perfumery houses, eventually branching out independently to create bespoke, one-off fragrances.
In 2004 he coined the term ‘haute parfumerie’ when he opened what was to become an innovative, influential and luxurious perfume boutique: the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie in Harrods.
After his mother died in 2009, he finally started to explore the possibility of creating his own commercial collection of perfumes. On the day of the launch of Roja Parfums, 2 July 2011, he walked into Harrods thinking, ‘What have I done? That was my life’s savings…’
It turned out to be Harrods’ most successful fragrance launch ever, and the start of a seven-year adventure, which opened up innovative artistic partnerships with Rolls-Royce, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, the Victoria & Albert Museum and The Macallan.
It also saw the arrival of Roja Parfums boutiques in Oman and London’s Burlington Arcade. In 2018 the brand opened further freestanding stores in Bahrain, Dubai and Moscow. ‘For a privately owned brand to have achieved all this in seven years is a real “pinch-me” moment,’ he says.
Renowned for his creativity and refusal to work with anything but the finest ingredients, Roja was an inspired choice to capture the essence of the British psyche, with his scent Great Britain. ‘I loved making a scent that was at once opulent but also understated and disciplined,’ he says, referring to the country he considers to be curious, accepting and reserved, yet paradoxically characterised by its long-standing traditions and skill at doing pomp and circumstance.
Why, after such a successful career, did Roja Dove feel he needed to create his own perfume house? The answer lies in his belief that we have a duty to pass on knowledge and leave a legacy – something he is well on the way to achieving: ‘I don’t mind if somebody utterly dislikes something I make. I love it if you love something I make. What I would hate is if you said something I made was “nice”. One of the reasons this brand is successful is that it’s very human.’
ROJA DOVE 41 NEW ENGLAND STREET, BRIGHTON,
41 New England Street,
Brighton BN1 4GQ