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BERLIN — “I think the great thing with perfume is that it is a very egalitarian thing,” observed Roja Dove, as he recently readied his luxury fragrance line for an intricately planned rollout, which subsequently included launching at Bergdorf Goodman at the end of April, along with new spaces in elite shops in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Roja Dove Parfums was created by the perfumer, curator and raconteur who is known for his Haute Perfumery in London’s Harrods. His brand was previously found globally in just seven locations, including doors in Moscow, Lausanne, Switzerland and Dubai.
With suggested prices ranging from 265 euros, or $345, for 100 ml. of eau de parfum, 295 euros, or $384, for 30 ml. of crystal parfum, and 990 euros, or $1,287, for 100 ml. of “Imperial Collection” parfum, the brand is clearly aimed at the upper-echelon consumer exemplified by Harrods — someone, said Dove, who has a private yacht and various homes and does not want to smell like anyone else. However, he asserts, his carefully crafted scents also appeal to the true fragrance connoisseur, regardless of their status or bank account. “I’m sure for a lot of people it is a stretch, but they love it so much they say, ‘I will take it,’” he insisted.
During a subsequent interview in New York, he carried the theme of the discriminating customer across the Atlantic. Dove, one of whose specialty is highly sophisticated chypre formulations, said women living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are some of the most sophisticated in the world and “I don’t think they want to walk around smelling like a bowl of fruit.” He was referring to the simpler, commercially driven formulations that are often marketed to young women in the form of celebrity scents.
Dove was speaking during lunch in Manhattan on May 5 after his debut appearance at Bergdorf Goodman. He received a warm reception from the store’s high-class clientèle “and immediately sold out of several items,” according to Pat Saxby, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances.
“Bergdorf Goodman is thrilled to be launching Roja Dove exclusively in the U.S. ,” she added. “Roja is very well known amongst our customers, as a true connoisseur of perfume.”
Dove’s collection includes 20 perfume offerings (there is also a candle line). Recently, Roja Dove Parfums has found spots in the high-end shops in Zurich and Geneva, Paris and Cannes in France, Rome and Milan in Italy. In Germany, the brand is entering a carefully chosen mix of independent perfumeries and high-end department stores in four cities — Berlin’s Department store Quartier 206, Munich’s Oberpollinger, Frankfurt’s Parfümerie Albrecht and Beauty Affair in Düsseldorf. Each retailer must commit to a set of display rules, including installation of the line’s special counters with Lalique crystal elements; many will have dedicated sales staff and all sales associates will receive training from Dove himself.
In the U.S., they will launch only the line’s parfum concentrations, which sell better than the brand’s eaux de parfums, according to Dove. Due to trademark issues, three Roja Parfums will have new names — Scandal will be known as ‘Creation S,’ Risqué as ‘Creation R,’ and Innuendo as ‘Creation I.’ “It’s very easy for the salesperson to say ‘Creation S is known as Scandal in Europe,” explained Dove.
In creating fragrances, Dove works in the headier concentrations of eau de parfum. When asked why he doesn’t market in the more commercially popular forms, he replied that his title is “perfumer, not eau de toiletter.”
Roja Parfum’s director, Dominic Venton, declined to discuss figures. However, he pointed out that last year, Roja Parfums was the number-one-selling brand in Harrods, “which grosses more than any other perfumery in any other department store on the planet.” Clarified Venton, “I think there’s a client today for exactly what it is that we offer, which is unashamed luxury. I think the middle of the market maybe is falling away. But at the extreme top of the market, people aren’t particularly price sensitive, and they’re looking for something different that’s been made without regard to cost, and that’s how we do business.”
Even though Venton declined to discuss sales volumes, industry sources speculate that Dove’s business could amount to $15 million in retail sales, which is quite productive considering that his distribution is limited to 10 to 15 doors around the world.
Expansion will continue, carefully. In about six months, Roja Parfums will add the Soho spin-off of Zurich’s Osswald to the ranks for the “downtown client.” Further growth in the U.S. will wait until later with Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago on the far horizon. “Long-term, Brazil is enormously important for us, China, too,” Venton said.
Roja Parfum will soon go truly global — Dove was recently named an international ambassador for the Great Britain campaign, a U.K. government promotional initiative. Dove is the only perfumer to be given the nod, alongside a host of creative, sport and business figures including Elton John, Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith. He will have the chance to introduce his skills and his scents under the banner of the Union Jack. “It is a lovely honor,” enthused Dove, “but for the brand it is extraordinary, because of the gravitas and legitimacy it gives, that sort of endorsement.”