Roja Dove knows the power of fragrance. He first took interest in the field as a child when his mother kissed him goodnight, as he noticed the scent would last long after she left the room. This led to teen years spent buying small yet potent bottles of perfume, and though Dove went to Cambridge to study medicine, a 21st-birthday visit to the Guerlain Boutique drew him to drop out and start his fragrance career. His persistent letters to prominent noses eventually scored him a position at Guerlain, and he would stay for nearly 20 years and become the house’s first non-family Global Ambassador. After leaving, he founded his own PR firm, RDPR Limited, as well as opening an eponymous haute parfumerie that stocks curated scents and a limited range of independent creations. In 2011, the latter evolved into Roja Parfums, which has aligned itself with luxury through Dove’s use of 24-carat gold-coated caps and a list of ingredients more expensive than the packaging. The line embraces its founder’s British heritage and emphasizes its range’s ability to fit a range of contemporary wearers.
Elysium, one of Dove’s newest scents, has a heroic, virtuous identity with notes including citrus, lavender, musk, florals, and vetiver. The goal is that this blend will emulate a hero’s strength of character to help the wearer to achieve the life they desire. With so many powerful notes and an ambitious goal, Dove has a lot to say about his creation, so he talked to L’Officiel USA about Elysium’s creation process, modern London identity, and literal soundtrack.
If your fragrance was the star of its own movie, which actor would play the starring role?
If I think of the man I had in mind when I created Elysium, it would be someone who is strong and heroic and alpha, but not in a stifling way. The Elysium man is suave and seductive and completely composed yet it isn’t aloof—it is a really friendly and accessible scent. If I could imagine him as a movie star, it would be wonderfully personified by Tom Hiddleston.
What color(s) does your fragrance smell like?
I am one of those people to whom color is incredibly important. I simply cannot work with minimalism and monochrome—if you ever see me, you can instantly see that. Color is enriching and appealing—I like vivacity and expression! I have a big part in the design of every element of my brand and it was my idea to create something different for Elysium. I wanted Elysium to really stand out on the shelves: I wanted the bottle to grab attention in the way the scent does when it is sprayed. Elysium went through a painfully long manufacturing process to get the aesthetic how I wanted it, which was for the glass to graduate from an almost translucent light blue to a deep and almost opaque royal blue. This is representative of how a perfume develops on the skin and how Elysium starts off bright and ethereal and develops into something incredibly deep, rich and resonating.
Which city does your fragrance encapsulate best?
Without a doubt, it would have to be London. I was born and raised in London and Roja Parfums is a thoroughly British brand. London is one of the coolest places on Earth, and anyone from any culture would agree. Elysium is an incredibly dynamic scent, like London is as a city. London is able to give both residents and visitors the time of their lives and I feel that this is embodied in Elysium–everyone can find something they love in it. Whatever that may be, it is without question the epitome of class.
If you had to place your fragrance in an iconic decade past, which one would it be?
Is it incredibly boring to say “The here and now”? A lot of my work is informed by the past–my creations are a homage to the Golden Age of Perfumery, when scent came before anything else. But Elysium is resolutely modern—it is the quintessence of the quality and the coolness of the standing the perfume industry has found its way back to, today.
What item from your wardrobe would you compare your scent to?
I’m not entirely sure that my personal sense of style really represents the Elysium man. My style of scent is much more baroque, whereas Elysium is incredibly cool--it doesn’t scream for attention. I have always said fragrance is the ultimate accessory, but if I had to compare it to a wardrobe item, it would have to be an investment staple—that piece of clothing that you save up to purchase but don’t keep it behind lock and key. It is that item that you revel in wearing often—that piece that goes with many outfits and can be worn across the seasons. Perhaps something like a beautifully bespoke-tailored suit jacket that can go from day to night with whatever you pair it with and is never out of place, both in business meetings or for a night on the town.
What genre of music do you think your fragrance most aligns with and why?
Probably jazz. What is cooler and more sophisticated than jazz? It is both soothing and hypnotizing whilst being invigorating and uplifting—it is a really multi-faceted musical form, and I feel as though Elysium can bring out a lot of different sides. It adapts to any style, any situation, and any mood. It is always there for you, just like how jazz is never not a good idea.
If your fragrance had a night out on the town, what drink would it order at the bar?
A single malt Macallan Gold. I had never liked whiskey until I got the opportunity to work with the Macallan. It took some convincing on my part, but once I became learned on the topic, I came to realize how whiskey wasn’t merely a pungent inebriator but a work of art, much like perfumery itself. It is incredibly nuanced and really based in quality, and there is no better than The Macallan. The Elysium wearer is the man who wants the best from everything in his world, so he would be the guy at the bar you just cannot take your eyes off of, but never feel intimidated by—he is suave but totally approachable, the center of attention in any room.
If you were to relate your new scent to a book, what would it be? Why?
Because of the root of the term Elysium, I want to name a hero from Greek Mythology, but the magic of the gods is that they are as flawed as they are good; the reason these stories speak to our core is because the situations are out-of-this-world while the heroes are undeniably human, like we are. I think in actual fact, Elysium is much more modern, so I would liken it to the James Bond novels. Elysium is the ultimate James Bond: smart, suave and a little bit dangerous…
If your new fragrance had a soundtrack, what three sounds would play once you spray the scent?
Funnily enough, Elysium does actually have its own soundtrack, of sorts! Because this scent is quite a cool direction for my brand, I wanted to create a little video to go with it. It has a lot to do with ethereal light and otherworldliness and grandeur, and of course, said video was in need of a soundtrack. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it has hints of Tubular Bells meets the Game of Thrones soundtrack. It is light and ethereal and mysterious yet peels into low, drawn-out strings, backed by thumping drums. It is both mystical and powerful at once.
If it wasn’t called Elysium, what would it be called?
That’s an unbelievably difficult question because, to me, it has always been Elysium. The way I create often starts with a name, then builds a character around that out of fragrant materials. I wanted to create the ultimate masculine scent, and for me, it had to be something heroic and transportive. Elysium is a concept that has trickled down from the Ancient Greeks—it is the place where heroes in their afterlife, to live forever in paradise. It is such an evocative word that it stuck from the start, and I created the scent to express that.