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The stories we tell ourselves. The history we keep inside. The meaning behind what we create. All of this, it creates something more than a simple perfume. A legacy, a signature and a memory. This is something Kilian Hennessy, the grandson of the co-founder of LVMH and the Cognac family, Hennessy, knows to be true. Having previously worked for the likes of great perfume houses incuding Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne and Giorgio Armani, Hennessy set to create a perfume line that was bespoke, utilising the techniques of the early 1900s to create scents with a story to tell.
RUSSH spoke with Kilian Hennessy on his inspirations, eco-luxe philosophy and how he comes to create a scent that is as intoxicating as it is memorable.
You have a total of five perfume collections now. Where does the inspiration behind these come from?
To be totally honest, my biggest inspiration I found it within me. I don’t want to sound narcissistic but I find inspiration in my soul, in my desires, in my fantasies, in what I want right now, in how I see the world. I always start with the writing of the story because I believe that a great perfume is first a great story, long before being a beautiful olfactive harmony.
Each of your perfumes has a distinctive name, for instance, In The City of Sin. How are these linked to the scent of the perfume?
Like every great movie has a script first, so do perfumes. I chose to name each perfume with both a title and a subtitle, expressing the notion that each scent is the beginning of a real story, one that has yet to be told. More complex, yet adding a great deal of depth to each particular scent. Each name of my perfumes is a chapter of the collection.
You describe your perfumes as being eco-luxe. Can you explain this philosophy?
For me, real luxury cannot be disposable! The Kilian bottle is refillable and the box is reusable as a jewellery box. I like the idea that a woman comes to me for a beautiful luxury scented products that she knows she will keep forever.
For me a true luxury product, must have, in its DNA, in its genes, the capacity to be transmitted from generation to generation.
Do you think one should have a signature scent?
There are no rules when it comes to perfume but perfume is not an accessory that should be chosen lightly. It says a lot about the person who wears it.
Today, I am offering to customers the opportunity to create their own scent, their own olfactive signature. Each creation is the result of a very intimate creation process between the client and I. It depends on each client. Each creation process is different.
Are the perfumes gender specific?
My scents are unisex. Giving a gender to perfume is a very marketing approach that I personally dislike.
You have mentioned before that the early 1900s were your favourite period for perfumery. Why is this? Is there something missing from today’s market that you hope to bring back?
I want to put perfumery back on its pedestal by going back to the truth about perfume; back to the way perfume was made in the late 19th and the early 20th century, but adding a contemporary twist at the same time.
I conceived my first collection, L’Oeuvre Noire, with a quasi-Faustian ambiance in mind, like those that darkened Rimbaud’s spirit or conjured the witches in Macbeth. But my L’Oeuvre Noire collection also recalled contemporary R&B lyrics like those of 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg or Jay Z, all about temptation in the face of urban violence, like Baudelaire before them, as expressed in his prose poetry. But many other periods influence me… you will see the beginning of the 20th century influences very soon.
The new store-in-store concept at Harrolds will be the first time By Kilian will be stocked in Australia. Do you feel Australian have a different approach to fragrance, and beauty in general than the European market?
I am going to be very honest: I have never been to Australia. I am planning to come in 2016 and I am very excited by it. What I found fascinating is that my top sellers are the same in every country: from the US to Russia, from France to the UAE. As if a great creation, like any emotion, was international.
Do you have a favourite scent, one that you think of as ‘the one’?
My favorite scent is and will always be Tuberose! All the women of my family wore Tuberose scents. When I launched Kilian back in 2007, a Tuberose scent was part of my first collection L'Oeuvre Noire... it is called Beyond Love: Prohibited. And I guess Tuberose will always be part of my life as my wife is also a Tuberose addict. I created for her a bespoke Tuberose scent with hints of Jasmine and Daffodil.