9 ottobre 2011

Lunching with the Professor: interview with Roja Dove (1)

London, Harrods Knightsbridge, fifth floor. To many perfume lovers this hint is enough to guess where I am. I open the door and enter in reverent silence, almost walking on tiptoe enchanted by the flashing of lights and display cases while I wander through the labirinth of dark and elegant furniture on which are displayed as knick-knacks the bottles. Passing by I secognise some of them: the italian Nobile in blown glass that make me feel like home for a while, Vero Kern's extraits on a small desk,  Caron's urne fontaine making a fine show and a wonderful selection of Nina Ricci in Lalique crystal among which the yummy apple of Fille d'Eve stands out. I pick it and put it close to my nose. Meanwhile I hear calling my name, Roja Dove in silk black shirt catches me as red-handed as a child with his finger in the jam. Fortunately the smile on his face and an invitation to lunch break down my tension finally. By the way, what's better than a lunch together to ease talking about themselves?

We order two salads and then start to talk. Roja tells me about when he was a child and one evening his mom was ready to party out and went to kiss him goodnight leaving him with an indelible halo of her perfume mixed with the smell of her makeup and skin wrapped in the glare of her lame dress standing against the light. Nevertheless the magic of that moment was put aside to pursue scientific studies. He even studied russian following the dream of a career as a researcher in Russia, till the day the call of perfume came back to him through the voice of a Guerlain flacon. So he started whiting letters to their customer care and to take information about them to the point that chez Guerlain they decided it would have been less of an annoyance to have him in house rather than outside, hence they hired him. He worked at Guerlain for twenty years and was able to make experience on perfumery and on their heritage enough to grant him the title of Professeur de Parfums. He resigned then in 2001 right before Jean-Paul Guerlain retired at the beginning of LVMH era and precisely when Roja had clear in mind the drift towards destruction a noble vessel would have taken at the mercy of a thoughtless steersman. Meanwhile our dishes are here and right after I start making him some questions.

E: I love a game you like to make, "Scents and the city" where you match smells with places in London. I know you did it also for other places and since you visit our Country sometimes, which smell Italy makes you think of?
R: Yes, this game started some years ago when it was asked to me which was the smell of London. Later a friend of mines who works for the BBC one day told me it would have been funny to make it for her program so we went smelling around downtown with a camera. London offers several interesting places, it's a city full of contrasts. Paris or Rome are full of decorations therefore I find them more feminine. On the opposite buildings in London have straight vertical lines, sober decorations and darker colours. It has lots of parks but rarely you can see flowers, there are more often grass and tall imposive trees, that's why I feel it more masculine with a smell of wood, leather, herbs. Thinking about Italy it comes to my mind... Uhm... The smell of a cathedral, cold humid floor, incense and the scent of candles with a strong wax smell.
E: Interesting reply. Usually when foreign peope are asked about matching a scent with Italy they instantly say citrus, jasmin and mediterranean smells. Why actually a church?
R: I've got some italian friends and thinking about Italy it comes to my mind your creativity and your artistic inspiration. Nevertheless the thing that always impressed me it how inside you there are two souls balancing each other: one artistic and free and the other that keeps you down with morals, catholicism and the family. Also french and spanish can be creative but are more predictable, specially french are definitely more conservative. You reach out being totally different in different situations, it's incredible. So here I go with a cathedral in the shade, with humidity rising from the ground, smoke and incense and the deep smell of wax from the candles.
E: We're a bit saints and sinners, it's part of our charm after all, isn't it?
R: Exactly, just like that...  
As we laugh and have some food, I pass to the next question

E: As a perfume trainer, you still make nowadays courses for companies and privates. Which is the main false myth people have about perfumery that you like to break down in your courses?
R: That a fragrance has nothing to do with advertising, that's not directly related with exclusivity or the price. One thing I do during my courses is to let people smell blind Gucci Envy and Estee Lauder Pleasures. The two fragrances are almost identical and smelling them people cannot recognize them. Then I show them the commercial advertising: Pleasures features a romantic dreamy woman in a field of flowers, Envy features a woman topped by her partner, with the naked bodies explicitly talking about sex. Each time they get astonished. The same game you can play it with Creed Green Irish Tweed and Davidoff Cool Water that are for sure alluring for a different target. Just imagine the reaction of people who buy the Creed for the prestige it exudes when they discover it is practically identical to a commercial scent.

Here's the second part of the interview...                        < Part 3>

1 commento:

  1. Looking forward to the rest of the interview. Thank you!