13 ottobre 2011

Lunching with the Professor: interview with Roja Dove (2)

Going on with the second part of the interview I thought to take advantage from Roja's competency as perfumery historian to understand its key events.

E: Since Paul Parquet era up to now which are to you the main milestones that have outlined modern perfumery history?

Coty Emeraude (1941)
R:No doubts, the first step was made by Paul Poiret who enstablished Parfums de Rosine starting the couturier perfumes era. After him came Chanel, Lanvin and all the others but the important thing was that the link with fashion raised the attention of bourgeoisie on perfume, making it accessible to a wider social class.
In a certain way François Coty did the same making perfume accessible to people. He did even more, he invented many of the classical themes in perfumery and got the credit to house them in beautiful Lalique bottles finally available to everyone's reach. Guerlain finished the job started with Coty polishing his fragrances: l'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Shalimar can be considered as a matter of fact polished versions of L'OriganChypre and Emeraude.
Despite not being important for the public, Elsa Schiaparelli Shocking is noteworthy from an industrial point of view because it was the first fragrance not made in house but made to order by a manufacturer.
Youth Dew by Estee Lauder has been really important for the US market: first of all the fragrance was launched as a bath oil and only later released as an eau de toilette. This allowed initially to unscrew the cap and dirty your fingers with the fragrance, easily smell it in a way related to cleanliness with a totally new gesture. This brought perfume to the people for the first time in America. Then in the seventies we must mention Charlie that was a great marketing success because it was proposed as a lifestile scent, for the sexually free and independent woman. It was the first perfume women bought by themselves while before men used to buy them as a gift.
E: Oh yes, I remember Charlie, the fragrance was terrible

Christian Dior Poison (1985)
 R: The fragrance itself was perfect. It was the cheap raw materials making it terrible. Later the eighties came and fragrances like Poison and Giorgio Beverly Hills and in general the fragrances became vulgar as they had to reflect consumism and hedonism. It was the time of status symbols and also perfume is not chosen anymore as a secret of beauty but showed off to be instantly recognizable. Nevertheless at the end of the eighties HIV broke out and right after the economic crisis, things that scared people so they wanted to escape from them at least ideally.

Mugler Angel (1992)
 The olfactory escape brought to the market from one hand the oceanics like Escape and New West and from the other hand the gourmands like Angel (also this one was a way to escape from the bare reality). Scents lost here their sofistication becoming instantly gratifying scents without complexity. Another important phenomenon that didn't happen by chance is that in these years companies producing most of the fragrances are the same producing detergents and a few at a time they deprived the market of freedom: there was no choice because everything smelled the same.
Hence that's why small niche houses started to become important. Right after the year two thousand Harrods realising this trend asked me if I wanted to open a niche perfumery at the fifth floor and so that's how this place was born. I was thinking about the name but I didn't have a clue and in the end the name Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie came from my collaborators on the analogy of Haute Couture and so I went for it to let people immediately understand they can find here a selection I personally made of fragrances that represent the best you can get from perfumery nowadays.

E: Interesting point, in fact one of my further questions would have been how your fragrant salon was born. And what about other recent important events?
R: Certainly the launch of Tom Ford Private Blend line . He's an influential person with a strong image coming from the fashion system that decided to create fragrances also using naturals. This made his name to become a strong appeal for people to get back to the origins of perfumery in some way bringing it back to its true sense. Moreover it's not by chance he did it with a fragrance collection, a concept that's become very important. Internet gave people access to information thanks to many resources like you bloggers, forums, online magazines. Now they are more conscious about what they buy so the idea of having a collection tailored by a creator makes them more confident to chose what suits them from the collection.
E: in other words it's a bit like going in a shop to buy some choths from a fashion designer's collection.
R: Exact.

Maybe it's the british accent, maybe it's the intense blue glance he's got while telling about the years he lived himself following the evolution of tastes and markets, but Roja is so charming even when he dwells on details that one could listen to him for hours.
But time is a hard master and I still have some questions left for him in the third part of the interview I will publish soon.

< Part 1 > <Part 3>

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