kilian hennessy

If you had to talk about yourself and describe your journey in a few words, what would you say?

my journey, in a few words, is a series of encounters. the destiny which came to open a sort of unforeseen perpendicular path, into which I plunged somewhat by chance and from which I made my profession. today, I define myself as a creative director, who by necessity also had to be a business manager.

you have to go back a few years, and in particular my 5th year of master's degree at CELSA, to really understand how I arrived in this sector. At that time, we were asked to write a master's thesis to validate the year. I had just done an internship at Kenzo Parfums, in communications, and as the brand was about to launch a new perfume, a semiological analysis of the corpus of women's perfume had been carried out. semiology was exactly my training. for me, it was quite obvious, and almost easy, to choose the theme of perfume and the analysis of communications of women's perfumes for this dissertation.

and what follows is a series of happy encounters. I'm thinking in particular of the one with Maurice Roger, who was the boss of Dior perfumes. it was he who taught me that you had to approach the perfume sector like an artisan to understand it. then I met Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud, who at the time had just made himself known with L'Eau d'Issey Miyake and Jean Paul Gaultier for women. he became my perfume teacher, my mentor in this universe for 10 years.

can you tell us how Kilian was born?

Kilian's story is obviously linked to my journey.
after the end of my studies, I had acquired a very solid olfactory structure. very quickly, brands came to poach me to do olfactory creation. I worked for 3 years at Paco Rabanne in the Puig group. it was great, because we had very little means but the Puig family told us to compensate for the lack of means with over-creativity. it pushed the teams to really create irreverent and innovative designs.
then I was poached by Chantal Roos, a great perfume lady. she was notably the marketing director of Saint Laurent Beauté, and launched Opium Rose, before continuing at Shiseido. she then took charge of the Beauty division of the Gucci group with Tom Ford. Alongside him, I was marketing director of Alexander McQueen Parfum. Three years later, I returned to L'Oréal to take over as marketing director for Giorgio Armani perfumes.
At that time, I remember a headhunter completely convinced me that I should work in fashion. she saw me alongside a Hedi Slimane or a Tom Ford. I was ready for this change of industry when I found myself, somewhat by chance one evening – destiny once again… – in the Baccarat museum, where an exhibition retraced a century of perfumery by the brand. it was fascinating. I had before my eyes a magnificent history of what perfume was: object bottles, incredible names, very elegant boxes... it immediately resonated with me. I was convinced that the consumer had the right to expect to be offered perfumery that would have the same attention to detail, the same luxury, the same fantasy. the next day, I resigned from L'Oréal, not to go into fashion, but to create my own house. and 18 months later, I launched my brand.
“the history of the brand is obviously linked to my journey. and my journey is a series of happy encounters. »
Was the fact that your brand bears your name immediately obvious?

I thought about this question for a long time, wondering if I should find a name or use my first name. In the end, it seemed quite obvious to me to name the brand Kilian. This would indeed force me to pay extra attention to everything. because they would all have my name on them, so there wouldn't be a single product that I would launch that I wouldn't be 1000% proud of.

your family made a name for itself with Hennessy cognacs. how was the creation of a perfume brand received?

Hennessy has now been part of the LVMH group since 1987; it is no longer a family business, and everyone therefore presides over their own destiny.

When I created my brand in October 2007, I launched it with 6 perfumes, which was very few because in general, all my competitors, when they launched a brand, offered between 10 and 12 perfumes from the start. The journalists' questions revolved a lot around the absence of a cognac perfume in this collection. it was a recurring question at the beginning. for me, it was obvious that I had to launch something that resembled me without necessarily having to link it to my origins. the idea of ​​a cognac perfume worked for me, that's for sure, but I didn't feel ready at the start to do it, because I wanted to do it well.

It was a few years later that the idea of ​​the bar came to me, and of exploiting the theme of the night. I like to live at night. I redesigned all the counters as bars, and the brand needed a collection of perfumes inspired by liqueurs. thus, a cognac perfume would be obvious. the Angels' Share perfume comes from there. it is not a cognac perfume strictly speaking, it is more my olfactory memory of the Hennessy cellars: a woody, sweet smell, and impregnated with eau-de-vie.

What is your vision today of the world of perfumery? how do you see it evolving?

When I started in this industry, I obviously looked at what had been done in the past. the decade which preceded my arrival in this sector, 1985 – 1995, is one of the most beautiful in perfumery. it's Fahrenheit and Poison at Dior, it's Eternity, ck one and Obsession at Calvin Klein, or even Angel at Mugler. it was an explosion of creativity at that time.
the following period, 1995 – 2005, is less exciting. it's a bit of a black hole. there aren't really any new ideas anymore. all the olfactory routes seemed overloaded. the perfumes copied each other.

Kilian is not the first artisanal perfume brand. before me, there was Goutal or L'Artisan Partemporel. this was, at that time, limited to a certain turnover, which was relatively modest. artisanal perfumery was not a category for customers.
the situation gradually changed when brands like Frédéric Malle, Byredo, Le Labo, Jo Malone and mine emerged. all of a sudden, our category grew in importance, with a completely crazy growth rate.
today, this growth is still evident, and artisanal perfumery continues to grow and take market share in perfume. the forecasts for the years to come are also very good, there is a real paradigm shift.
“my creative process is quite eclectic! my only filter is to be able to imagine the smell, or if I can't imagine it, I have to be able to imagine the creative process to find that smell. »
the brand celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, how do you see the continuation of the adventure?

The next part of the adventure is obviously to continue the perfume, but also to successfully launch our makeup line. we are in the process of completely rethinking our lipstick collection. we had marketed a first capsule collection, but which was not 100% on brand. There, the idea is to evolve it to make it completely refillable or rechargeable.

perfume and makeup are the two weapons of total seduction of a woman – or even of a man for that matter. when a woman has the eyes, the lips and the perfume we point in relation to her personality or in relation to the image she wishes to give off, she is irresistible!

what are your sources of inspiration? how would you describe your creative process?

I must admit that my creative process is quite eclectic! my only filter is to be able to imagine the smell or if I can't imagine it, I have to be able to imagine the creative process to find this smell.

the Gold Knight perfume, for example, is inspired by a work by Klimt which captivated me during an exhibition: his Beethoven frieze. for this work, Klimt, in the middle of his Byzantine period, worked with gold leaf. on this frieze, we can see a knight whose armor is made of gold. his creative process of processing gold leaf was my inspiration here. just like for the Woman in Gold perfume. the idea was to find raw materials that smell like gold leaf. it needed a solar fragrance. this is why I went for bergamot, yellow rose or anise.
For Good Girl Gone Bad, I wanted to work on the metaphor of paradise lost, with Eve and in particular this idea of ​​forbidden fruit, by succumbing to sin. we managed to release a fruity fragrance but spiked with spices, peas, and resin.
on the Intoxicated perfume, I wanted to explore the theme of addiction. and mine is Turkish coffee! when I go to the area, it's my thing. they put a cardamom seed on you, and this combination with the coffee gives an extraordinary taste. I immediately wrote to my perfumer so that he could reproduce this taste in scent. It worked very well, transformed into a fragrance.

your biggest challenge achieved, or perhaps to be achieved?

My biggest challenge when I launched the brand was to have specific bottles, real dedicated creations. in fact, almost all competing brands use standard bottles that exist on the market, from glassmakers, on which they put a pump, a cap and stick a specific label. nothing that requires specific tools. for Kilian, I didn't want any of that. I wanted a bottle that was unique to the brand, engraved in the glass and which reflected this luxury and this know-how of yesteryear.

When the brand started, we had to go see the suppliers and convince them to produce only 10,000 bottles, which at that time seemed colossal to me. these same suppliers, who were more accustomed to quantities of 100,000, or even 500,000 vials, kept pushing back my orders...

a favorite place where you can usually be found? a place that suits you?

so to be very honest the easiest place to find me is on my cell phone... I'm actually very often on the move or outside.
“I find le gram creations essential. there are no artifices, only the beauty of the material. »
with Erwan, you have a common passion for contemporary art, who are your favorite artists?

there are a lot of artists that I like. I love design, I love contemporary furniture from the 50s. Today, when you look at all the objects I have, you can see that each time, the material is worked, sculpted or engraved. I don't like things that are too smooth.

with my perfumes, it's the same thing. If I find that a fragrance lacks roughness, I consult with my perfumer so that he adds what I call "a fly", that is to say an almost ugly detail. there must be a defect. That’s what I like about worked materials.

do you have a favorite object? how much does he weigh ?

I had a favorite object, which was a small jade given to me by a Taiwanese friend. it was a good luck charm. she was in my pocket, she didn't leave my side for 10 years. I unfortunately lost it, and my friend told me that the jade had taken bad luck in my place.

For some time now, I have been wearing this medal from my friend Elie Top. It's a clover, I almost never remove it.

What do le gram creations inspire you?

I find Le Gram’s creations essential. there are no artifices, only the beauty of the material. I wear my ceramic cable every day. I like the twisted appearance of the cable itself, almost a column.
le gram jewelry is present without being show off. I find them quite virile without being macho, and above all very elegant.

If le gramme was a fragrance, what would it be?

I would obviously work on the idea of ​​metal, hot metals, cold metal, I would investigate these directions. as there is an essentiality in the design of le gramme, there must be an essentiality in the smell. natural raw materials alone are already a perfume, since there are sometimes 80 to 200 olfactory notes in a natural raw material, whereas in a synthetic body, there is only one. so I would work on a fairly refined formula, like the design. a short formula, probably between 8 and 12 products, and essentially synthetic bodies, with perhaps a natural raw material which would bring elegance to the whole.

for the name of this perfume, I wonder if I wouldn't go back to a number. obviously, there are the big numbers, 5, 19, 22 Chanel, but Halston had names like that, like Z-14. I would perhaps suggest a name with a bit of Halston inspiration, but revisited today with industrial inspiration.
“if le gramme was a fragrance, I would obviously work on the idea of ​​metal, hot metals, cold metal, I would investigate these directions. as there is an essentiality in the design of le gramme, there must be an essentiality in the smell. »



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