Alia Raza is an artist and filmmaker in addition to being the founder of the acclaimed modern fragrance house, Régime des Fleurs. We were interested to learn more about the inspirations and background of RdF's newest scent, Rock River Melody. Here's what Alia had to say...
Q. The references you've mentioned for Rock River Melody are wonderfully contrasting (horseback riding in the green forest, leather grease on metal, the hip hop collective Odd Future). Can you tell us how these inspirations translated into the fragrance?
A. In some cases we were quite literal, for instance I knew I wanted to use galbanum, which smells extremely green, to communicate the idea of the Fontainebleau forest, and in other cases it was more abstract. The fragrance swirls around and changes as you wear it, and for my collaborator Christopher Niquet, who I developed the fragrance with, that sense of movement felt like some of his favorite hip hop music.
Q. The name has a nice poetic rhythm to it, how did you come up with it?
A. I had told Christopher that I'd gone to visit the great stables in Chantilly and was interested in doing a perfume about horses. He grew up riding and we decided this would be a perfect fragrance to make together, to create an idealized version of the horse rides of his teenage years. One of the horses that he rode back in the 90s was called Rock River Melody. What a great name, so unexpected for a perfume. And yes that rhythm of it, it feels as if it's galloping.
Q. We'd love to know more about how you see this scent as a contemporary exploration of masculinity and how this influenced the choice and combination of ingredients.
A. The starting off point was to think about what ingredients were traditionally used in the men's fragrances that we were familiar with. Ambers, animalic musks, patchouli, fougère notes. Rock River Melody refers to these but turns them around a bit. I made sure to use flowers. Rose and narcissus, which almost no one picks out when they smell the perfume but they make a big difference.
There is also a creamy aspect, and a bit of that sparkling scent of cola. I hesitate to use the word gourmand because I just don't love that category of perfumes at all, but I do think there is an almost edible quality here among all the other aspects. It's a very complex formulation with some amazing ingredients.
Q. Your background is as a filmmaker and artist who explored the psychological and sociological significance of beauty rituals. Can you share a few thoughts about perfume as a beauty ritual, in this context?
A. I have always been preoccupied by fragrance. Fascinated by it and by the idea that you could literally bottle something that evokes so much feeling. One of the first video art works that I made was of someone opening up a new bottle of the perfume I was wearing in those days, which is now discontinued. They opened it and sprayed it on and didn't stop until the entire bottle was empty. It took 28 minutes and became not quite a ritual but a performance.
Q. What's next on the horizon for Régime des Fleurs?
A. I developed four more perfumes with Christopher, and all of them explore masculinity to some degree. The Régime des Fleurs version of masculinity you could say. These next four were made with Dominique Ropion. He's a legend! I have admired and worn his creations since I was 12 years old, so it's pretty thrilling for me.
Photo of Alia Raza by Michael Avedon for 65CPW.