Tales make scents

Collection links Chinese ancestral culture and French perfume making, writes Tama Lung

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am


Asia boasts a rich cultural history and longstanding appreciation of the finer things in life, but perfume is one of the last luxury goods to captivate the region's consumers.

It's exactly that challenge that led Kilian Hennessy, of niche perfume brand Kilian, to create his latest collection, Asian Tales.

'It's true that Asia has never been a big market for perfumes,' says Hennessy, grandson of the LVMH luxury group's founder. 'But I have the feeling that mentalities are changing with the new generation, and this collection is dedicated to them. It tries to build a bridge between Chinese ancestral culture and the traditional French art of perfume making.'

Launched last month, Asian Tales draws on five traditional stories, including The Peony Pavilion, and The Lotus Flower and the Dragon King. 'Except for one (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), all the [scents] are inspired by Chinese tales,' says Hennessy. 'I love their root, their depth, their richness. They are like mini philosophical books.'

The first two scents in the collection are Water Calligraphy and Bamboo Harmony, both created by perfumer Calice Becker.

Water Calligraphy is a delicate fragrance paying tribute to water, evoking the image of 'an aquatic flower sitting next to a pond of water lilies'. Grapefruit zest and Reseda blossom blend with jasmine sambac, magnolia, cardamom and vetiver.

Bamboo Harmony continues the calligraphy theme, representing the main component of an artist's brush. The fragrance derives its 'spirituality' from a blend of bergamot, neroli, white tea leaves, mimosa and mate essence.

For Hennessy, creating a fragrance involves more than just what's inside the bottle. 'I started working on this collection of scents - primarily dedicated to Asian customers, wherever they live - with the secret desire to convert them to the harmony and protection powers a fragrance can bring,' he says. 'That is why the motif carved on the sides of the glass bottle is a shield, to bring protection to the wearer.'

The Asian Tales collection also features 'opera red' - symbolising courage, righteousness and glory - to create a 'harmony of opposites' with Kilian's signature black. An amulet, in silver to add modernity, is meant to bring success to the wearer of the fragrance. And the number eight is used for luck and to represent perfect balance.

All of the elements, says Hennessy, 'helped us put together a collection that, I hope, makes sense and talks to the senses as much as to the spirit.'