By { Beth Weitzman

Grandson of the founder of LVMH group and heir to Hennessy cognac house, Kilian Hennessy spent his childhood surrounded by cognac barrels. He graduated from the prestigious Sorbonne, where he wrote a thesis on the semantics of smell and developed the ability to quote French poet Baudelaire by heart. After studying under some of the industry’s most coveted noses for prestigious perfume houses such as Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani, in 2007 Hennessy developed his namesake brand, KILIAN, not only to reflect his distinct personality, but also to achieve a perfect balance between elegance, eco-consciousness (each bottle can be refilled and kept for a lifetime) and uncompromising luxury. Twelve years since its launch, KILIAN’s niche collection includes more than 35 scents, with fragrance collections including L’Oeuvre Noire, Arabian Nights, Asian Tales, In the Garden of Good & Evil and Addictive State of Mind. Hennessy continued to create unexpected products that embody ultimate sophistication and timeless luxury with a collection of wearable scented jewelry and decorative objects for the home. Recently, he launched Le Rouge Parfum, his brand’s first makeup collection. Here, we sit down with the oh-so-handsome Hennessy for a little tête-à-tête.

What inspired you to create, Le Rouge Parfum, the first makeup line from KILIAN? 

My goal has always been to offer women beautiful weapons of seduction and strong shields of protection at once. And, frankly, a great scent and a great red lipstick are the two strongest weapons of seduction a woman can have.

What were your objectives for Le Rouge Parfum? 

To create a collection that allows women to find their perfect red in gorgeous, scented lip colors—for lips that make a woman feel daring and elegant at the same time. 

How long was it in the making? And can you share the story from ideation to creation?

It has been a long process, but it went very smoothly I have to say. The most important for me was to make sure I would offer women a product that didn’t exist on the market, from packaging to scent to textures.

The scent was the longest as we (me, my team and the Estee Lauder Company’s team) were all swimming in unknown territory. How far could we push the scent creation? How far could we push the concentration of perfume? Which ingredients were authorized and in which quantity? At the end, we have a real perfume formula of 27 ingredients—including neroli essence, petit grain essence, orange flower absolute, vanilla extract and our unique marshmallow accord—applied to lipstick.

The packaging came quite naturally, as I knew I wanted to play with my signature Achilles shield motif. We tried in the same shape as our travel spray, but it looked too much like existing lipsticks and not different enough from our existing travel sprays. When we tried in cylinder, it immediately acquired its own unique identity.

Textures…This is when it is amazing to belong to ELC. They are simply the best at lipsticks! Everyone knows that in the industry. We were able to create a creamy satin texture that is emollient yet whisper-light, seamlessly sophisticated and delectably sexy. And an ultra matte texture for a powdery velvet finish that, for the first time, doesn’t feel like cardboard on the lips. The matte is the texture I spent the most time on. It is the look that I love the most on women and I felt it was the texture where we could bring the most.  

Who were the first women to test Le Rouge Parfum? 

All the women around me! From the 30 women in my office (90 percent of our staff is composed of women) to my wife, everyone was trying colors and textures every day in my office for six months. 

Can you explain why you think lipstick is a makeup essential for women?

I felt it was time to focus on this timeless and fearless makeup essential by addressing the eternal quest for the weapon of seduction that should be part of every woman’s makeup arsenal—the perfect red. Once she finds it, it is unmistakably hers. She feels sensational, others comment on it. It becomes both her armor and her critical weapon in amping up her sex appeal. The perfect red lip is simply thrilling to look at, to wear, to smell and—if all goes well in the game of love—also to taste. Red lips are iconic and express a timelessness and sophistication. They are also one of the most universal weapons of seduction in all cultures.

The distinctly scented line includes a range of six shades of red lipsticks, in both matte and satin finishes. What is the significance of these specific hues?

From divine to devilish, these six shades of red have been chosen for their individual power frequency. All are available in a matte or satin finish to take the frequency higher, create a bold look for day or dramatic intensity for evening. From angelic to sinful, each shade is an opportunity to find the rouge of one’s fantasies, to flirt with light or embrace dark.

And why a collection of only reds?

Red lips are just so powerful! They are also one of the most universal weapons of seduction in all cultures. 

How is Le Rouge Parfum lip color collection in sync with KILIAN’s values and heritage? 

Le Rouge Parfum is the next logical step in my ambition to make perfume visible. The senses of smell and taste are intimately linked. So, in a way, the scented lipsticks also make this connection visible. 

Fragrance is at the heart of KILIAN, so infusing scent into the lipsticks makes total sense. How does creating a scent for lipstick differ from for a perfume?

It doesn’t, actually. When you create a perfume, you always have to cover a base. Alcohol and water for a parfum. A soap base for shower gels. A milky base for body lotions. A wax base for candles, etc. The difficulty was to feel, taste, smell the scent in the lipstick itself, as we are working with a very low concentration of 1.5 percent.

How did you decide on this delicious blend of gourmet and floral notes?

I knew I wanted to start from my most gourmand scent, called Love Don’t Be Shy, which is a unique harmony of neroli, orange blossom, vanilla and a marshmallow reconstitution. 

The embossed lipstick bullet is encased in a slick black lacquer case dressed with the brand’s emblematic Achilles shield motif with gold signature accents. What is the story behind the emblematic Achilles shield motif?

When I created my brand 12 years ago, I wanted my scents to be beautiful weapons of seduction and shields of protection at the same time. What you might not know is that I am a history geek, especially when it comes to certain periods, and L’Iliade is one of them. 

Why is beautiful packaging so important to you?

There must be something for the eye to take in: the bottle, the material, the vaporizer and the box—the bed in which the fragrance lies. I aim to make perfume visible, and to achieve a perfect alliance between elegance and luxury.

Do you have plans to expand the line with additional shades and/or colors?

Absolutely! I have already approved the next 12 shades of reds, from raspberry reds to brown reds.

Any plans for other cosmetics to join the family?

Yes. An all-over scented face powder with miracle effects. 

What can we look forward to next in the KILIAN fragrance family?

A new scent in September, a real departure from my last 12 years from an olfactive perspective but still expressing the themes that I enjoy—love and its addiction.

What is your go-to scent?

It depends for which occasion, but probably Straight To Heaven, White Cristal Extreme.

Which is your favorite KILIAN scent to smell on a woman?

Good Girl Gone Bad. It is elegant by its whirlwind of the most beautiful flowers in perfumery—rose, osmanthus,  jasmine, narcissus, tuberose and orange blossom—yet very sexy.

Available in a matte and satin finish, from angelic to sinful, each shade is an opportunity to find the rouge of one’s fantasies, to flirt with the light or embrace the dark. Hues include: Heaven Rouge; Aphrodisiac Rouge; Prohibited Rouge; Dangerous Rouge; Intoxicating Rouge; and Devil Rouge, $55 each, available at bykilian.com