Kilian Hennessy

Hopelessly romantic types can surrender to love at Printemps in Paris, Harvey Nichols in London, or Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis. Love and Tears, Surrender is a romantic new fragrance from French perfumer Kilian Hennessy. It is available only at select places around the world, and now St. Louis has joined that elite group. Hennessy, a charismatic Frenchman, is heir to the Hennessy cognac dynasty, and he was in St. Louis last week to introduce the fragrance at a private event at Saks Fifth Avenue.

    LN talked to him about his passion for perfume.

LN: You spent 15 years in the perfume industry before launching your own line in 2007. What inspired you to create the Kilian line?

KH: I was losing faith—I was too far away from what I wanted to do, because the industry had changed dramatically. It became like the movie industry, perfumes were expected to be ‘block busters’ overnight, or they were considered failures. Companies were not allowing enough time for a scent to be successful.

LN: The Love and Its Prohibitions line has four scents, and today you introduce what you have described as the ‘final chapter.’ Is there a story behind the literary reference?

KH: For me, the creative process begins with the story, and the first step is the name. From there, it’s which perfume, which olfactory family would best express that name? Then the scent is created from the appropriate raw materials. It’s a whole process, but the name always comes first.

LN: And the first chapter?

KH: The first chapter was the beginning of the love story, so I have to ask which essence expresses that innocence? We used the iris flower, combined with citrus, to create a fresh, powdery scent. But the second chapter, Love, Don’t Be Shy, expresses the passion of the moment. It’s that moment when you are so in love, you can just bite the woman wearing it. We chose orange blossom, combined with the scent of marshmallow. It’s actually adapted from an old cooking recipe.

LN: Your fragrances often include Indian jasmine. What is special about it?

KH: Jasmine comes from three places: India, Egypt and the south of France. Egyptian jasmine is similar to lily of the valley, it’s sensual. Indian jasmine is considered very sacred, it’s used to adorn the goddess statues in Indian temples.

LN:  What about the French jasmine?

KH: There’s nothing special about it. We’re very rational.

LN: The packaging of the perfumes is stunning. What inspired the design?

KH: The bottles, and the boxes they come in, are true luxury items, and luxury should not be disposable; it should be something you keep for life. You would not dispose of a Chanel bag! The black boxes take three months to make, and have 13 coats of lacquer. The bottles rest in a satin lining, which can be removed so that the box can be used for jewelry.

LN: And the bottles?

KH: I envisioned a bottle like those from the turn of the 20th century, now found only in museums, but with a modern ‘boudoir’ style. And all the bottles are refillable at a reduced price, so there is no waste.

LN: So, Love and Tears, Surrender—is this a sad ending?

KH: Not at all. It might be the end of this love story, but now you are ready to surrender to a new love.