On the occasion of Kilian Paris’s 15-year anniversary we had the chance to sit with founder Kilian Hennessy in Berlin for an exclusive interview. Much has happened since our first meeting with him in 2015. Not only have we lived through a global epidemic and are dealing with a war in Europe, just 2 hours by plane from where we sit.
Over the last years, Kilian Paris too has gone through changes. It’s popularity among perfumer lovers has constantly increased. Its widened product scope today includes body care and decorative cosmetics. And the availability of its offering is so much broader today than it has been 8 years before, not least because Kilian Paris is now part of the Estée Lauder brand family.
In our interview, Kilian Hennessy shares how it all began and what’s to expect from the band for the next 15 years. Enjoy!
PHOTOGRAPHY: Kevin Münkel
Kilian Hennessy in Berlin. Image: Kevin Münkel
Translating vision into smell …
How it all began.
SCENTURY: Congratulations to 15 years of Kilian Paris! How did it all start, do you remember the day or moment you decided to start your own perfume label?
KILIAN HENNESSY: Before starting my brand, I was a creative director and created perfumes for fashion designers. I created perfumes for Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen and for Giorgio Armani, every time for different groups. At the end I was doing something that was very far from what I believed a great perfume should be. I started in the industry in 1995 and there was nothing. But if you see the ten years before from 1985 to 1995 you have so many fantastic perfumes: Poison, Fahrenheit, Allure, all the Calvin Klein fragrances (Obsession, Eternity, Escape, ck one). Furthermore, you have all the great perfumes like Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male or L’eau D’Issey by Issey Miyake. But when you look at 1995 to 2005 – there was nothing.
One night I had a dinner at the Baccarat Restaurant in Paris. After the dinner I stopped at the Baccarat Museum which is on the same floor as the restaurant. It is a tiny museum, but they had an exhibition about “One Century of perfume – Baccarat flacon”. I stayed two hours there. I was blown away. They had several perfumes from the beginning of the 20th and the end of the 19th century. But they have an appeal to the level of luxury and beauty. Those engraved bottles and boxes with satin linings were mind blowing.
When I left the museum at night, I was convinced that customers should deserve and need this level of luxury. The next day I gave my resignation with the ambitions to create a brand that would be in way a modern interpretation of what I saw at that night in the museum.
SC: Kilian Paris has made an impressive journey from a small and very special newcomer brand to one of the best and most successful niche brands. How has the world of perfumery and the market of niche brands changed during this period of 15 years?
KH: In the last 15 year the world of niche perfumes has changed a lot. So many people and so many brands entering the market – hundreds and hundreds of brands. What makes me a little worried at one point is wether the customer was able to feel the difference, to smell the difference. We, and that means people like Frédéric Malle, myself or the creator of Le Labo, have in common that we did our homework, we studied perfumery. We have the culture of ingredients, material, archetypes and technologies. We have this culture. And when I see all these brands that pop up like mushrooms, designed and created by people who have no culture, I find it a little bit difficult.
P: Cheers to that! Image: Kevin Munkel.
SC: Where do you find inspiration for the brand and for the development of new fragrances?
KH: My inspiration comes from a lot of things. I am not dependent on one source. But the most important thing is always that I can smell the olfactive translation of an idea. If I can not imagine how I can translate that vision into a perfume, it doesn’t interest me. It can originate from a trip somewhere, for example to Bangkok: the sticky rice infussed with coconut milk and mango gave birth to Moonlight in Heaven. The Turkish coffee with cardamom seed I enjoyed in Istanbul gave birth to Intoxicated.
It can as well be memories: the Hennessy cognac gave birth to Angels’ Share. It can be a creative concept like the creative journey of Gustave Klimt. It can be a universal story like the garden of Adam and Eve and the idea of the forbidden fruit. This is an element that we all own and the idea of the forbidden fruit gave birth to Good Girl Gone Bad. My sources of inspiration are very divers and eclectic.
“My inspiration comes from a lot of things.”
SC: With your scented lip colors you have crossed the line between perfumery and decorative cosmetic, between smell and taste. Will there be more multi-sensual products in the future?
KH: For sure — we are going to extend the make-up category to eyes and extend the lips. And we think about all the decorative themes. But we like to build one category at a time. I don’t want to overstretch myself. But next to the perfume, make-up is the most important challenge for the next five years.
SC: Where do you see Kilian Paris in the year 2037, 15 years from now?
KH: Hopefully it will be a brand that has expanded into other markets like Asia, Africa or South America. Sustainability will be a big focus for the company. We already use silk paper, boxes and bows out of recycled materials. Our glass bottles contain 20% recycled glass already. I would love to use a hundred percent recycled glass in 15 years. It would also be great to produce every component in France.
With the liquors collection we already reduced our carbon footprint, but I love to do it for every single product. Using more and more material that is sustainable will be a main focus for the brand. We have started but I hope that we can get closer to a hundred percent in the next 15 years. Another important part is inclusion and diversity. Hopefully the brand will have reached a bigger audience not compromising on any of the elements I mentioned before.
SC: Thank you Kilian for this interview.
Kilian Hennessy in Berlin. Image: Kevin Munkel.
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