Scion of Fragrance
Rather than capitalize on his famous surname, cognac heir Kilian Hennessy made his own foray into luxury of another sort—finding poetry in the pleasure of making perfume.
Photographs by Raphael Lugassy. Directed by Robert Rabensteiner.
As the grandson of LVMH Group cofounder and heir to the Hennessy throne, Kilian Hennessy knows a thing or two about luxury. But rather than capitalize on his famous surname, Kilian took his own foray into luxury of another sort—fragrance and used his first name as the driving force. Now just over five years old, Hennessy’s By Kilian brand has come to include dozens of fragrances with literary-tinged names like “Sweet Redemption, The End” and “A Taste of Heaven, Absinthe Verte.” “I believe both perfume and literature are a story to be told,” Hennessy says. “Above all, I’m only guided by the emotion I try to communicate through a scent.”
Hennessy’s passion for fragrance began in an academic setting during his studies at CELSA, the School of Higher Studies in the Information and Communication Sciences at the Sorbonne. There, Hennessy completed his thesis on odor semantics, focusing on fragrance as a commonality between gods and mortals. But prior to his studies Hennessy cites fragrance as playing a role in his upbringing: “Eau Sauvage from Dior [reminds me of my childhood]...it was the scent of my grandfather, the most important man in my life,” he says. “He only used the 500ml splash bottle that he poured in his
hands and then [used allover] his hair!” And while many would expect Hennessy’s fragrances to allude to a whiff of Cognac, the only link to his family’s past in his current craft is the inherent woodsy scent of his fragrances, reminiscent of the wood barrels the liquor is kept in—a move he swears isn’t a gimmick. “It’s true, the fragrances do have a woodsy-vanilla hint to them,” he says emphatically.
Most recently Hennesy expanded his label to include evening bags. “One night, my fiancé used my perfume box as a clutch and it gave me the idea to create a collection of ten unique perfume-inspired clutches.” With geometric deco-inspired designs, the bags’ style names—like “Surrender” and “Don’t be Shy”—reflect the same literary-inspired names of his scents.
The simple, clean lines of his clutches are reflected in Hennessy’s own personal sense of style. “I am very simple. I wear jeans, white shirts, and dark jackets. For me, it is almost like a uniform,” he tells us. “I don't even think too much about how I dress, I just know instinctively what works for me.” —Charlotte Steinway