Roja Dove is truly a well-dressed gentleman. Walking in to the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, Dove was clad in blue jacquard blazer, white shirt, black trousers and black shoes with white tassels. His accessories included a white gold necklace, a leather belt with a gold snake buckle, a diamond brooch on his lapel and two large diamond rings. And he smelled really good... Naturally, of course.
Dove, who recently collaborated with whisky brand The Macallan for its Edition No. 3, is a fragrance expert and master perfumer. Born in England in 1957, Dove started his career in French perfumery house Guerlain, where he worked for 20 years. Then, in 2011, he decided to launch his own perfume brand, Roja Parfums. Indonesia Tatler recently had an exclusive opportunity to have an intimate talk with one of the world’s greatest noses.
How did you discover your interest in perfumery?
When I was 6, my mother came to my bedroom to give me a goodnight kiss. She wore a dress made of gold lame. As the light hit her, it was like my mum had metamorphosed into an angel. I remembered the smell of her and that image stayed in my mind. That was the first time I made a connection between the moment and the person—that smell.
I would go to my mum’s bedroom to open the drawer where she kept bottles of cologne and smell them. I used to save my pocket money to buy tiny bottles of perfume. Scent became an obsession for me.
Why did you wait for 30 years to launch your own brand?
It is quite personal. In 2009, my mother died. I went out for dinner with a close friend and she spent about two hours metaphorically slapping my face. She said that I spent my life promoting somebody else’s work and not my own. I realised what she said is true.
I decided that evening that I would launch my own commercial brand. So we launched Roja Parfums at Harrods on July 2, 2011, which was one day away from my parents’ wedding anniversary on July 3. I made enough stock for six months—but it turned out that we sold out every single piece of stock in 10 days with no advertising. We had the most successful launch in Harrods’ history and within six months we were the No. 1 best-selling product.
We are now in 180 shops around the world in 42 countries, which, in six years, is not bad, considering we are a privately owned brand. Honestly, I didn’t know that anybody would be interested. I know my bespoke clients love my work, but I never thought that the general public would like it as well.
Do you distribute Roja Parfums in Asia?
We sell it in Vietnam, and I think we are just about to start selling it in Indonesia.
What is your favourite fragrance?
My favourite fragrance is the eponymous “Roja”, which I made for myself.
What is your end goal as a master perfumer?
I think it is important to leave a legacy and to pass our knowledge on to the next generation. I did write a book about perfumery, and in the future I would like to establish a perfumery school in Britain.