While we would venture to say that Roads‘ groundbreaking fragrances are intriguing enough to stand on their own, Danielle Ryan’s newly launched brand goes far past pleasant parfumerie. For Ryan, Roads is a school of thought, a creative curation of sensory experiences meant to enhance and deepen one’s cultural and intellectual understanding.
Ryan’s quest was to invent a brand that was not limited by its own definition, but could evolve with customer’s desires, bringing together art, ideas, people and places.
Beyond fragrance, Roads consists of a high-end publishing company and an entertainment studio which produces feature films. Products exist in the context of the evolving world around them, born out of authentic emotions and collective concepts.
In the following exclusive video, Ryan tells us about the real world inspiration behind each Roads fragrance sold at Barneys, and gives us further insight into the inventive brand through an exclusive Q&A.
Tell us about growing up in Dublin and how that has influenced you.
Danielle Ryan: I was born in Dublin but I spent the early part of my childhood in Sri Lanka and Nigeria while my father worked as a pilot for their national airlines. Ireland has always been my home and an incredibly creative space to grow up in. Irish people have a deep, inbuilt passion for the arts and, in particular, literature. It forms an integral part of how we think and operate. The arts have always influenced my life in a massive way but I also grew up in a very business-orientated environment. Ultimately, I wanted to create a situation where I could mix business, arts and innovation. This is what the day-to-day Roads world is for me.
How did your interest in fragrance develop? Have you always felt so strongly about the importance of scent in defining the human experience?
DR: I studied as an actor in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Shortly after graduating, I set up a similar National Academy in Dublin called The Lir. We looked at creating auditoriums where smell could be introduced during a performance—natural scents like cooking, or dampness. Scent has a hugely emotive effect on us as humans, but it can be so subtle that we don’t realize the effect that it is having. We found that incorporating smell into a production made the performances complete and far more interesting for the audience. They felt like they were more a part of the story that was being told on stage. This trend is now developing in theater all over the world.
Perfume is a very artistic form of self expression. It can create an atmosphere around you all day that gives a particular message to the people you meet. It might not always be so noticeable, but it creates a strong subliminal impression.
Tell us about the creative and technical process of scent creation.
DR: I had a very clear idea of the ten fragrances from the beginning. A story or concept for each one. White Noise, for example, is based on technology, the global omnipresent force, humming quietly in the background of our everyday lives. That was exactly the feeling I wanted this fragrance to embody. I prepared a very clear brief of what type of atmosphere was required to represent this idea. I worked with perfumers and a number of compound houses to create the fragrances. The process was very creative and took a year-and-a-half. Within that time, 150 fragrances were made. We narrowed the 150 down to the ten that are now available, the result being that each fragrance is very individual. Each one is independent from the last, like ten short stories.
What is your earliest scent-related memory?
DR: When I was young, my grandfather used to have large gatherings at his house in Ireland. He was a very glamorous man. I remember being washed and dressed in my pajamas and walking downstairs where a dinner party was taking place or where people were dressed up about to head out for an event. My memory from those evenings is the smell of the mix of perfumes and makeup when they were kissing me goodnight. I loved the smell of cigars, leather and cognac from the men, everyone looking so happy. I remember being transfixed by the mood these fragrances created, and dying to be 20 years older.
What advice would you give to someone looking to choose the right scent?
DR: I think the approach to fragrance should be as playful and diverse as fashion. A different scent for a different mood, depending on the time of the year, time of day, event or country. Wear them like outfits. Also, when choosing a fragrance, people should try and focus on simply whether they like the fragrance and whether it suits their personality. More than anything, it should be fun.
What feature films is Roads currently working on?
DR: There are about nine films on our pre-production/development slate at the moment. The idea for the film side of Roads is to find interesting and important topics that would benefit from being made into a film. The topics at this stage are quite diverse, ranging from films about anarchy groups to computer hacking to LGBT issues to censorship and mental health. We are making a film about the author Richard Yates, who was a speech writer for Bobby Kennedy. We are producing two feature documentaries with the BBC. There are always collaborations going on with interesting directors, producers and writers. We hope to have a presence international film festivals in 2015, so there are exciting times ahead.
What do you see as the importance of creating a world of content surrounding your products?
DR: Roads is mostly about curating and filtering the world that we see into fragrance, books or films. We are always on the lookout for ideas or insights. As a result, we come across many interesting things—events, music, films, people, concepts, science etc. Then, we share what interests us. This type of interaction ensures that Roads is alive, thinking and constantly communicating.
In 2014, I feel brands have to rely on more than product alone. They must be able to think—and people should be able to see this thought process. Brands must stand for something and have a clear ethos and style. There are three different companies under the Roads brand because I would like Roads to have, like humans do, many different ways of expressing itself.
Do you see Roads expanding to categories beyond fragrance, film and books?
DR: With Roads, I wanted to create an idea that had no boundaries and that could evolve. So, yes, in time Roads could expand into lots of things. For now, though, we have quite enough to keep us busy!