Having just launched the “In the Garden of Good and Evil” Travel Spray and about to launch the fourth and fifth fragrances of the “Asian Tales” Collection, By Kilian is a force to be reckoned with. The fragrances bring stories alive, depicting emotions through precise design of each scent and presentation, and priding itself on creating luxury goods that last a lifetime.
Slick hair, crisply dressed and with a French hue to his accent – essentially, an embodiment of his fragrances – we met up with Kilian to chat about his influences, and the processes behind his collections…
How did you come to create KILIAN?
I left my position as International Marketing Director for Giorgio Armani Parfums to create KILIAN. I wasn’t happy creating highly-tested mass-distributed fragrances anymore. One night I stopped at an exhibition that was showing a century-work of Baccarat perfume bottles. I stayed for 2 hours and left with a very clear idea: I wanted to make a perfume brand that would recreate real luxury with contemporary highlights.
Your heritage is engrained in luxury (Kilian’s grandfather was the founder of LVMH). How has this influenced you?
You could say that "luxury is in my blood". I grew up listening to my grandfather and father talking about ‘quality’, about "being the first ones to travel to emerging markets". It has been a tremendous influence.
You worked in some very prestigious perfume houses (Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander Mc Queen and Giorgio Armani). How has this effect your work today?
I learnt different things in each of the perfume houses I worked for. But right now, those things don’t matter - I’ve invented my own rules; rules that the houses wouldn’t have agreed on.
What are your greatest influences?
My wife! She is my partner in crime. I run everything by her. My influences also come from past art, movies and literature or current music and photography. What's most important is that my creations have a solid artistic foundation and express contemporary emotion.
Can you talk us through the stages of creating a perfume?
Everything starts with a story. First, I create story boards where I pin words and images - photos, design inspirations, lyrics, fabrics and names - until, like pieces of a puzzle, they create a story that talks to my senses and emotions.
It’s only when a story embodies both scent and emotion that I share it with my perfumer. And now the longest process starts: a unique melody - as I like to describe it - must be found and the perfume must be created. This can take up to 2 years!
What completes a perfume?
Everything that surrounds it! The bottle in which it lies; the box that the bottle is housed in; its name; the image behind it...everything! Because there are no words to describe a scent, everything that it’s attached to influences your judgment.
How do you differentiate each of your collections?
They’re all so different!
L'OEUVRE NOIRE is a deca-aroma composed around 3 chapters: love, artificial paradises and temptations.
ARABIAN NIGHTS is a homage to the narcotic charms of the Middle East.
ASIAN TALES is a collection of perfumes conceived as moments of meditation and spirituality.
IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL is a contemporary metaphor of the original sin .
What differentiates Kilian from other perfume brands?
We are the only brand to offer such a level of luxury: engraved bottles, jewelled coffrets, keys, tassels, names engraved in metal plaques, filled manually with enamel, boxes that double-up as evening clutches. We are the only brand to say that real luxury should not be disposable, which is why all our bottles are refillable and our boxes are reusable. We are the only brand that believes that a great perfume is a great story before being a beautiful olfactive harmony.
What do the next five years hold for you?
We have so many new projects this year: a new collection of scents called Addictive State Of Mind, a Home collection with candles, diffusers, sachets, soaps, and a breakthrough collection of scented jewellery and scented leather bracelets. I can’t even begin to think what will be in 5 years!
What perfume do you wear?
I use a wardrobe of perfumes... A Taste Of Heaven, Absinthe Verte or Sacred Wood during work days; Back To Black, Aphrodisiac or Amber Oud at night; Bamboo Harmony in the summer or weekends.
Find out more about By Kilian at bykilian.com.
Perfume images © Kilian
Kilian Hennessy © Shoky Van de Horst