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'I could not imagine my life 100% in one city'

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Feature by Alexia Petsinis

For Kilian Hennessy, (whose famous family founded that legendary cognac empire), the expected move would have been to remain in Cognac, France, and work for the family business. But little about Kilian's creative journey followed the obvious path.

Pursuing his interest and passion in scents, he studied at CELSA, Paris before founding Kilian Paris, one of the most respected names in the industry today. From narcotic floral qualities to seductive lipsticks reminiscent of objects d’art, his global brand celebrates perfumery craft and innovation with an unparalleled knowledge. We spoke to Kilian about creative life between Paris and New York, how his identity is shaped in each culture, and the sensory inspiration they possess.


On where you grew up

I grew up in Cognac until I was ten, and then I moved to Paris when my parents got divorced. The move was the best decision ever! I would not have the sense of culture I have today if it weren’t for living in Paris.

On your earliest memory of scent

The scent of Cognac at the Hennessy family cellars in Cognac, and oak barrels drenched in eaux de vie.

On New York as home

I worked in New York for two years at Christian Dior in 1996/1997, right after college. Then I started going to New York one week each month as soon as I launched Kilian Paris in 2007. I now live in New York with my wife, but I really live between Paris and New York, splitting my life 50/50. Every two weeks, I come back to Paris to see my kids. I could not imagine my life 100% in one city.

Above: Kilian Paris scents in the making. Below: Kilian Hennessy. Images courtesy Kilian Hennesy and Kilian Paris.

On the perception of your identity in New York and Paris

When I am in New York, I am looked upon as a Parisian dandy: white shirt with big collars, velvet tuxedo jackets. But when I am in Paris, I am perceived as much more rock ’n’ roll; skinny black jeans, high-heel boots.

I do feel a little bit more freedom in my style when in New York. French people are very judgemental, while New Yorkers are much more open minded.

On the relationship between place and scent

I created the scent Moonlight in Heaven partly in Thailand and partly in the Maldives. You really get the feeling you have reached heaven in the Maldives.

I also created the scent of the Caviar Kaspia candle, as Caviar Kaspia is one of my favourite restaurants in Paris.

Above: Kilain Paris boutiques in Harrods, London and Washington St, New York. Below: 'Vodka on the Rocks' by Kilian Paris. Images courtesy Kilian Paris.

On connecting with local culture in new york

My wife played a very important role in this. She is one-quarter black, and was married to a woman before me. She feels that one should not be judged or treated differently for the attributes that make them uniquely them!

On a new project you are working on

I am very proud of a new olfactive family I am launching in October (2020) called The Liquors; a homage to my heritage with a scent called Angels’ Share. It is based on my olfactive memory of the Hennessy cellars in Cognac.

On inspiring places in Paris

The Louvre Museum, especially the Grecque and Etrusque collections. The Opera Garnier, particularly for the ballet. Also the Antiquaires in the 6th Arrondissement, and the Librarie Galignani.

On favourite spots to eat and socialise in New York

Omar’s and Indochine. I’d also suggest Tribeca for its cobblestone streets and its restaurant scene.

On window seat or aisle

Window! I love to look out the window. It activates my imagination and creativity. Most of my perfume names were created in planes.

On the scent of Paris in a word


Above: The forecourt outside The Louvre Museum, Paris. Below: The stone streets of Tribeca, New York.


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