Focus: The ROADS Group by Danielle Ryan

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Danielle Ryan, Founder of ROADS. It takes guts and resources to launch three companies at the same time. Danielle Ryan, scion of the Ryanair dynasty, has both. But it takes something else to make sure that each company immediately takes its place as a creative force to be reckoned with.

Whatever it is, Ryan has it too. In 2013, she launched ROADS, a lifestyle brand named for the different paths in life we take, with three separate specialisms: niche fragrance; high-end books specialising in art and culture; and an independent film production company.

Dracula, published by ROADS, with cover by Fernando Vicente.

‘I launched the three companies at the same time because I wanted to create an artistic brand that would not be limited by its own definition, or confined to only one idea,’ explains Ryan. ‘The idea was that they were always to be separate but joined by a common ground.’

That common ground is an aesthetic and ethos rooted in ideas of culture, freethinking, storytelling and design and inspired by contemporary issues. Ryan acts as curator, following her instincts, researching subject matter, guiding and steering a team of like-minded individuals and experts.

This ability to call upon established talent is key to the brand’s success. ROADS Entertainment, for example, was founded with ex-commissioning director of the Irish Film Board Alan Maher. The company has 15 ongoing projects, all commercial art house features on an eclectic range of subjects; its first launch is Being AP: The Man Behind the Legend, a punchy documentary about iconic Northern Irish champion jockey Tony McCoy.

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‘We discover things that are relevant now and find a way of communicating them,’ says Ryan. But it’s the leftfield definition of relevance that makes the ROADS’ philosophy so exciting. You never know quite what to expect.

ROADS Publishing launched with editions of classic novels, given muscular new covers by young artists, for example - but it’s the visual library that stands out, especially graceful hardback books such as Paparazzo: The Elio Sorci Collection, images by one of the first every paparazzi photographers. In focusing on a figure who was a giant in their world and time but relatively unknown outside them, it shares something with Being AP.

Pages from Paparazzo, published by ROADS.

Then there’s 100 Global Minds, an introduction to to the world's most innovative and inspiring thinkers; If You Close Your Eyes, Oda Jaune’s oil paintings and watercolours; Gardens, a celeration of the world’s most exciting green spaces; Government, political architecture. Next year, books showcasing the unsung heroes of the fashion industry will be launched. See? Always surprising.

Last but not least, there is ROADS fragrances, the ‘driving force of the company,’ says Ryan, and its most high profile arm, with 130 key luxury retailers including Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Barneys New York and The Avery Perfume Gallery stocking the range. Again, Ryan works alongside a team of renowned noses, seeking to create a kind of olfactory poetry.

The latest collection is based on contemporary Africa, through which Ryan has travelled extensively. In all of them - from I am Dance, based on the freedom of African Dance, to Afripolis, a celebration of Africa’s energetic and diverse cities - African ingredients are used to evoke and celebrate the continent's environment, its culture and its history.

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‘I’m not a perfumer,' admits Ryan of her part in the process. 'I come at fragrance with a theme. So for something like Past/Presence, inspired by African literature, I'd write down all the characteristics of the Nigerian writing and those characteristics would become the backbone of the fragrance. In that light, you can pretty much do a fragrance around anything. We have White Noise, based on technology; Graduate 1954, inspired by women in the 1950s, which has the scent of old Elnet hairspray; Harmattan, for the strong trade wind that blows across the Sahara during dry season. It’s a new approach to fragrance, moving away from the ingredients list to narrative.’

‘New approach’: two words that sums up all the brand’s activities. That - and its vital, talented team. 'The whole group is based on collaborations: the artists, the directors, the writers, the perfumeurs,’ says Ryan, simply. ‘Our business doesn’t work without our partnerships.’