Thursday, 1 July 2010

Roja Dove's Haute Parfumerie

One of the perks of publishing on the Internet is that you can change posts with which you're not entirely happy. This one is a case in point: over the course of several months, I've taken it off, amended it, re-published it, decided it wasn't right, tweaked it some more, re-posted it, deleted it again... and so on. The reason is that it's taken me quite some time to decide precisely how I feel about the glitzy bauble on the fifth floor of Harrods, aka the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie.

My first visit left me unsatisfied: I was lost in a sea of haute-ness. I glanced at some of the bottles, sniffed a few things and trundled away. But I was soon drawn back for many return visits. And since then I've come to the conclusion that the elegant, mirrored enclosure is quite simply one of the most important perfumeries in Britain, if not the world. For one thing, it holds several UK-only exclusives (the list keeps changing but at the moment it includes Profumum Roma, some Carons and a few MDCIs, amongst many others). But what makes it really special is that it represents one person's vision of what constitutes great, modern fragrance creation. The place has to obey fiscal imperatives; that goes without saying. It's a shop, not a charity, and so the people who run it have to ensure that they stock sufficient quantities of stuff that's commercially viable (scented candles, anyone?). But within these prosaic constraints, it achieves a feat to which few shops even aspire. In short, it is a showcase not so much of what one man thinks people might buy, but of what one man thinks people ought to buy.

The way in which this ethos manifests itself in the shop is in its refusal to carry the entire portfolio of the brands it sells. Most perfumeries don't get to pick and choose which specific perfumes they stock from any given fragrance house; for instance, if they wish to sell Dior, they have to take on the entire mainstream Dior range. But Roja Dove is permitted to be selective. He can have, say, Eau Sauvage, Diorissimo and Diorling, but he can say No to Dior Homme and Addict. Check out his Guerlain selection: Vol De Nuit, Nahema, Mitsouko and a few others are represented in extrait form, but you won't find Idylle, Guerlain Homme or Champs Elysees. I suspect a tiny number of brands decided they wouldn't go along with this particular arrangement - wares from Chanel are conspicuous by their absence - but the sheer number of companies which have agreed to play ball is a testament to Dove's standing in the perfume industry.

When you combine this with knowledgeable service, a discreet, non-pushy atmosphere and blissful silence, you get a unique scent experience: one part visit to a shop, one part peek into a personal perfume collection and one part wander around a scent museum. An absolute must-see, if ever there was one.

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