This story starts with the word intuition. Or, to be more appropriate, it starts with 'following one's nose'. And while it is true that the best things often happen by chance, Kilian's instinct led him to study perfumes to become one of the best perfumers in the world.
Kilian Paris was born in 2007, from the idea of founder Kilian Hennessy to give perfume a voice. A career that has gone against destiny to inherit the family business, the acclaimed French elite cognac dynasty Hennessy, whose many fans include Snoop Dogg. Kilian simply followed his nose to forge his future. But from the family history, he immediately learnt the importance of luxury, intertwining it with his audacity and a concept of sustainability dear to the brand since its beginnings. The result is a new and personal interpretation of French perfumery, contemporary precisely because it draws on the craftsmanship of the past. In each of its perfumes, you will find ingredients of the highest quality at the service of a story. A story that begins with Kilian himself and that the wearer continues in search of its ending.
So Kilian Paris has just celebrated the first 15 years of one of the world's most renowned olfactory careers. And it did it in a big way, especially in Italy, by opening a brand new counter at La Rinascente in Milan, in Pizza Duomo, called Kilian Bar – and where, ça va sans dire, the menu offers all five of the brand's olfactory families: The Fresh, The Narcotics, The Cellars, The Smokes and The Liquors – and which, with its exquisitely déco aesthetics, evokes the evocative atmosphere of Cognac cellars with the addition of the French taste typical of Parisian nights, in a luxury hotel. For the occasion, its founder, Kilian Hennessy, flew straight to Milan, also to tell us more about his brand. His vision is clear: his perfumes lead straight into the limbo of olfactory pleasure, and after reading this interview you will better understand why.
How did Kilian Paris come about?
"It all started a bit by chance, a bit by luck. At university I was studying semiology and semantics and for my thesis I chose, I don't know why, the subject of perfumes. In the world of perfumes, there is a precise vocabulary, with 5000 words for around 3000 notes, available to perfumers. In short, I wanted to make these words more accessible to those outside the industry. To make it clear what I wanted to cover, I started a course on perfumes, and that's where I fell in love with it. I call it a kind of tsunami in my life, a wave stronger than me that embraced me and never left me again'.
There is a certain connection between cognac and perfumes….
'Very often I have the feeling that the smell of family cellars lives on in almost all my perfumes. Both cognac and perfumes have blends that are both alcoholic, with a mix of ingredients that age differently. The difference, basically, is that one you drink it and the other you spray on your skin'.
Kilian Paris has a clear theory: first you choose the name, then you make your jus
"I am interested in starting with the name and then developing the smell. When I focus on creating a new perfume, I always think about how to encapsulate the name I have in mind perfectly in the composition. And the inspirations come from so many things and worlds. There is my personal culture but also art and literature, the trips I take and even memories'.
Is it true that you never forget your first fragrance?
"When I launched the brand, I debuted with six fragrances. If we take the example of Love don't be shy, which for me means not being shy about love, I wanted to create the beginning of the story, which those who will then wear the perfume will continue with its chapters and its ending. I don't want to tell them the whole story, just give them a little taste of it, as it was for Adam and Eve. I told Calice Becker, the perfumer I work with, that I wanted to make a gourmand perfume, one that was far from the archetypal angelic jus. She proposed a marshmallow made according to her grandmother's recipe, obviously creating an accord with existing perfumery ingredients combined with orange blossom. And this is where the beginning of the story of one of my first sillages originated.
Does it take about a year to make a perfume?
"Creating a perfume is a long process, about 12 months, and very intimate. That's why it should be seen as a jigsaw puzzle, starting with a small fragment that is your initial idea. Mozart used to say that he searched for notes that loved each other, and that is what happens in perfumery too. In composition you go by trial and error. To create an accord, first one note will reject another until it finds the one with which it forms the perfect alchemy'.
How do you make a fragrance visible?
"How do I give a face to something that has no face? All my thinking started from here. My aim has always been to offer strong shields of protection and weapons of seduction at the same time, but everything is tangible except the fragrance. Since we live in a world where, with the help of social networks, people like to see images associated with a thought or a product, I asked myself how I could 'show' my fragrances. I created boxes and clutches that are objects to carry with you. In this way, people can say it's by Kilian'.
Kilian Paris cares a lot about sustainability. Why did you rename it eco-luxury?
"Ever since the dawn of Kilian Paris, ever since I saw the first perfume packaging, I knew it was a huge waste to throw away the bottle once the fragrance was finished. So I decided right away to make the bottle an object that would last forever, and I created refills. Today I think about the future of my brand, where I will use more sustainability, including ingredients, to protect not only the planet but also the small communities that work with them. We dream of doing better and better".