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domingo, 28 de fevereiro de 2016

By Kilian Celebrate New Burlington Arcade London Boutique – With A Party to Showcase Perfume As an Art

by: Suzy Nightingale

We are all drawn in by differing means – a memory recaptured by scent, the heady tug of glamor, an overwhelming need to dress ourselves in another layer of expression – but perhaps what keeps us in the heart of the perfume world once it has beckoned is the pure artistry of some of our most beloved houses. Where once the grandeur was not merely coveted but expected, a natural bedfellow wherever fragrance was concerned; many of us are thrilled to seek out niche houses who continue this grand tradition of fusing storytelling through scent – connecting us to our deepest, and perhaps even darkest desires.
“Just as a film director writes the script and then begins production, By Kilian fragrances are developed with a story in mind. A perfume must tell a story of olfactory harmony. For Kilian, fragrance is an art; a messenger that opens a thousand doors in the memory.”  By Kilian website
London has ever been a city of alleyways to explore, and Burlington Arcade in the heart of Mayfair was the one of the precursors of the mid-19th century shopping galleries in Europe. Wandering down the opulent covered arcade, your eyes are wrested back and forth for attention, with luxury accessory brands to vie for your affections, antique jewels sparkling flirtatiously from velvet-lined cabinets and all manner of fabulousness arrayed before you – and now, a number of high-end fragrance houses have set up shop to add to the temptations. Now that By Kilian have chosen the prestigious location to open their very first standalone boutique in London, it has become known as ‘perfume alley’ – a must-visit destination for any fragrance lover. With Fortnum & Mason and Regent Street only a stone’s throw away, it’s only natural that eager perfumistas will be led by their noses.
Small but perfectly formed, the By Kilian boutique is 30sq meters and split on two levels. Decorated in the instantly recognisable modern twist on Art Deco style chic the house has become known for, the black and white aesthetic is present throughout. Downstairs, as you enter, you’re greeted by the entire range of By Kilian fragrances. Upstairs will include a private salon furnished by the brand’s interior designer, Chahan Minassian, and an art gallery in which to display the most exceptional Kilian artefacts, such as the scented jewelry collection. It’s not always out with old and in with the new, however; as Kilian Hennessy felt it vital to preserve the original façade of the boutique and the interior rail, to keep the British spirit of the site alive.
Excitingly, the Burlington Arcade store will be offering Kilian’s Bespoke Service – after several meetings with Kilain himself, customers will be able to create their own, one-off unique fragrance. Kilian believes in working the same way that haute-couture clothes are crafted – keeping in close contact with the client throughout the entire process; tailoring, honing, refining until they are fully satisfied the scent ‘fits’ them to a tee. Price on request, so although I’m sure I wont be availing myself of this anytime soon, one can dream – and the jewel-box like boutique is certainly fit for fragranced reveries.

Image of LouLou's from thevanderlust.com
Let’s reel back to the night before the morning after, when Kilian Hennessy threw an exclusive party for press and friends alike, in the delightfully louche surroundings of Loulou’s private member’s club, to celebrate not only the opening of the boutique itself, but the very notion of ‘perfume as an art’. Descending the antique golden painted circular staircase, a darkly glamorous set of rooms awaited our arrival swagged by heavy velvet curtains, with swirly glitter-encrusted floors and wonderfully kitsch multi-coloured wall lights twinkling merrily. Waiter’s circled with scented cocktails inspired by some of the By Kilian fragrances, and as we waited for Kilian Hennessy to appear, the guests pressed ever closer to the movie screen hung on one wall, and anxiously filled the low velvet seats in front. It was standing room only as more and more people crowded in, an excited hubbub breaking into a round of applause as Kilian arrived with Hikari Yokoyama – an art curator, creative consultant and friend who was to share the hosting of this presentation.
Following an introduction to the By Kilian brand, we were treated to a truly fascinating peep into the creative process that guides Kilian, and the way he weaves the particular artistic stories that inspire the scents themselves. Kilian began by explaining how vital having control of every single part of creative design – from the concept to the fulfilment - was to him.
“I worked for Dior for two years, I worked with Alexander McQueen for three years, coming to London for two or three days every week. I then worked for Giorgio Armani for three years – so this made up the best part of ten of years of my life.
But you know, when you work for designers, you have to put yourself aside get to know the DNA of them. When you present perfumes to them, you don’t get to put your true self forward, you have to understand them.
In the creation of a perfume there are so many different elements – of course the fragrance itself, but the bottle, the box, the name, the typeface, the colours, the advertising campaign. And in the end, it’s rare – and I had certainly never lived it – that you can be proud of every single one of those elements.
At some point you have to accept the system, or you have to leave and create your own – which is what I did. I left Armani in March 2006 and launched my own brand in October 2007. For the past eight years now, this is what I have been doing.” Kilian
Hikari reminded Kilian of a conversation they had when they first met, about the process he uses to create fragrances. “To my untrained nose,” she went on “when I pick up a bottle of perfume, it was just like a flower or a vanilla, but I felt like your approach was completely different…”
Kilian Hennessy: “Thank you. Well, yes, but I think, frankly, that this is how it should always be done! In truth it’s going back to the original way a perfume was conceived, in the late 19th and first half of the Twentieth century – when you think aboutGuerlain, and a perfume like Shalimar, or L’heure Bleue. And people always ask about synthetic notes and if you should use them. I always say that you have to use them – a perfume with only natural materials would not be really creative – it would smell like a thousand other different perfumes out there. Creativity, modernity, this comes with the inclusion of synthetic notes. Now, of course they can be beautifully combined, and much depends on the quality and the percentage of both; but great perfumes like ShalimarL’heure BleueChanel No. 5L’air du Temps – I mean, I could name every single great perfume that’s been created – and the key accord, that key originality, always comes from synthetic. Beauty, quality comes from natural – so it’s always about the combination of both.”
Hikari Yokoyama: “So the synthetics actually bring depth to your creative freedom and originality?”
Kilian: “Well, in perfume we have around 3,000 components to work with. It’s not the seven notes of a musician, it’s not the colours a painter is limited to; so imagine if the world of painting was in the hands of an industry that would invent ten to fifteen new colours every year. So this is our world – we have new ‘colours’ to play with all the time.”
Hikari: “When we were putting together some of these paintings we’re going to show you, the titles of the perfumes… well it always seems as though you have this total theme when you’re creating perfumes, this narrative that goes from the names themselves to the way you work with nostalgia, memories, creating atmospheres…”
Kilian: “The way I work, the scene comes first. I cannot even imagine working on a new scent if I don’t know what emotion it’s supposed to express. Some perfumers have a way of composing that is very direct, with very short formulas – and when you work that way you have an overdose of certain key ingredients. This gives a certain harmony to the perfume. Other designers have a much more creative – a slower way of working on a perfume, which makes it far more complex overall. So depending on what I want to express in a perfume, I go and see one perfumer or another. But again, it goes back to the original way of constructing a fragrance. When Guerlain created Shalimar it was the first use of synthetic vanilla. Because of this, a new category was created in the world of perfume, and since then every Oriental comes in that way from Shalimar and that Ethylvanillin. But even then, working in his lab with his white coat, he understood that he had to connect with romance and dreams of the person buying the perfume, so he called his creation Shalimar – an Indian word for love – and furthermore, he goes to his friend René Lalique, and says he wants a bottle that expresses the Orient as well, and he had the idea of creating a bottle that looked like a fan. So you see, the name, the scent and the bottle have always been linked together. They participate, they all express the same emotion together. And this is the way I work: the scene comes first, then the story – I call them ‘olfactive books’, so every collection is a book and each perfume is a chapter in that book. Only when I know exactly what the scene and story are can I choose the perfumer to work on it with me.”

American Nude
Together, Hikari and Kilian went through some of the key scents in the collection, as blotters were passed around the audience and we sniffed as they explained the harmonising of the scene, the name and the fragrance. We began with one of the most recent – Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? As Hikari commented, “It’s the first one that grabbed me properly when I smelled it – although it’s a leading title, the smell is also completely sexual. It’s floral but warm, lush, languid and hot. It reminded me of a summer fling, the romance has maybe faded a bit but the sex is so good you just stay on!” As we laughed, the first image appeared on the movie screen before us – the painting Great American Nude #99 by Tom Wesselmann, 1968; chosen by Hikari to reflect in art what Kilian created in perfume.
Kilian: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi is a caressing scent with a unique milky sexuality.”
Hikari: “He was one of the first Pop Artists, but he resented being called that because he wasn’t making commentary on advertising, he was interested in making earnest images that displayed sex in all its beauty.”
Kilian: “For me what’s interesting is the use of patriotic colours here, the red, white and blue really stand out, with touches of gold. And when I went about designing the Voulez-vous, I knew I wanted to use some of the most emblematic elements in perfumery – the gardenia, and sandalwood. And those two gorgeous materails, we’ve never had the quality and method of extraction to use them to their full advantage. Thanks to technology, we have this thing called ‘Life Scent’ or ‘Head Space’ that allows us to truly capture the beauty.”

Untitled
A new image flashed upon the screen, a photograph of an instillation – Untitled, by Robert Irwin, 1969-2012.
Kilian: “This is another world… When I created Bamboo Harmony, I’d just finished working on the Arabian Nights collection which centred around Oud, really strong, so I needed a perfume that would bring about a feeling of spirituality, moments of meditation, something very serene. It was inspired by a traditional Japanese tale and feels like a sip of pure, white
Hikari: “It’s like the feeling of bright, sharp winter light hitting glass for me – Bob Irwin was about art not as an object but as experience. He stripped away everything else and changes how the eye sees, how the light bounces off surfaces, your eye adjusting to the layout.”

Good Girl Gone Bad
The next fragrance/art pairing was Good Girl Gone Bad, for which the chosen painting was Hotel Bedroom by Lucian Freud, 1954
Kilian: “Good Girl Gone Bad is a luscious, uninhibited whirlwind of flowers and is the representation of Eve – created by God, who bit the apple and turned bad for our pleasure, and I find this painting particularly fitting, but I’ll let Hikari talk about it first…”
Hikari: “When you smell it, it’s sweet and innocent at first, but there’s also a darker undertone which to me signified an internal apocalypse – the innocence breaking down. And to me this self portrait perfectly encapsulates that. It’s a one of the last paintings he did in this style before he moved to a brushier technique, and it’s actually of him and his wife, Lady Caroline Blackwood. They had a crazy, tumultuous relationship that ended in divorce, he painted her throughout their relationship but this is the last one. She was an heiress to the Guinness fortune and quite a rebel, and he was a rebel – and it was a time in British aristocracy when you couldn’t live freely. Her mother hated that she allowed herself to be painted in bed like this. They were modern and dangerous and in control of their own destinies, and yet not their own marriage, which inevitably broke down…”
Kilian: “There’s a really interesting contrast here, of innocence and of course the sexual aspect. His wife was 22 when he painted her here, I believe, but she doesn’t look 22. Good Girl Gone Bad is built only on flowers and musks, and there’s this contrast from the top to the dry-down of two opposite flowers in each stage. We have the Osmanthus, which is delicate, innocent apricot-like, together with the honey-like Rose from Grasse. Next we have soft absolute Orange Blossom immediately contrasted with heady, animalic Jasmine, and then the perfume develops with another duo of flowers – Tuberose from India, which is the most narcotic of flowers, contrasted with Narcissus from France. Everything is enveloped in baby musk, which is there to increase the feeling of innocence in this dramatic bouquet.”
As the next blotters went around for us to sniff, Kilian announced this perfume had been created especially to celebrate the opening of (and exclusive to) the Burlington Arcade boutique. It’s Called Royal Leather, and the painting chosen to encapsulate this scent was A Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians by George Stubbs, 1765.
“Whenever I open a new place, I like to create a fragrance that captures the flavour of the city in a scent that will be exclusively sold there. So for the Burlington Arcade boutique, I was thinking about what could express the location best. My good friend is the Creative Director of Gieves & Hawkes, which is just around the corner from here, and when I was creating a bespoke scent there for my wedding, and they have all the uniforms for the Royal Guards. There’s a distinction between the drape of the fabric and the hard leather, there’s a stiffness but then all these feathers and decoration that almost convey a sense of femininity amongst all the masculinity on show. The contrast between something very rigid and structured and that softness is really intriguing to me.” Kilian

A Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians
Hikari: “I think the rise and fall of the British Empire is integral to the spirit of this nation, and so the fragrance depicts this earthy, loamy richness and the idea that man has the power to inflict himself on nature by manipulating the elements around them. I liked this picture – it was commissioned by Sir George Pigot for King George III, and depicts a cheetah that was kept at the Tower of London for a number of years. It’s a very British perspective on what the colonies meant at that time, with all these new exotic spices and smells available for the first time.”
I absolutely loved this one – from the surprising mixture of Hawthorn and Black Tea that’s immediately warm and rich with a slightly bracing, peppery edge that keeps the nose twitching with interest. There’s no messing about with Royal Leather – it plunges straight in with a roar and then relaxes into a powdery Heliotrope bouquet held aloft by a supple leather glove and followed by a resiliently woody Oud base, leaning in ever closer until you can almost feel the hot breath of the on the pulse of your neck. A dangerous foe momentarily beguiled, it’s definitely not for fainting milksops to be dallying with.
For Musk Oud, Hikari chose the painting The Hungry Lion throws itself on the Antelope by Henri Rousseau, 1898-1905.
Kilian: “Musk Oud was part of the Arabian Nights collection, one of the most powerful notes in the perfume industry, which can completely dominate every creation, but here we tried to keep it in check by wrapping it in a cocoon of musk and delicate rose – an interesting way of virgin notes keeping the strength under control. It’s a caressing animalic scent with a warm sensuality.”

The Hungry Lion throws itself on the Antelope
Hikari: “This fragrance definitely has the feeling of something very far away. It’s coming from deep in some jungle, and the jungle can be terrifying but is also innocent and offers fruits willingly. Henri Rousseau painted the jungle incessantly but actually never left France, it’s his representation of the exotic and here we see the power yet romanticism of an attack.”
The last pairing was Smoke for the Soul with Orange Sunshine by Peter Doig, 1995.
Kilian: “Smoke for the Soul is part of the Addictive State of Mind collection built on addictions, one for cigar addiction, one for Turkish coffee addiction, and this one which is cannabis addiction...”
Hikari: “I honestly didn’t know what this was about when I first smelled it, but it’s my favourite!”
Kilian: “Oh come on, I feel that we all from time to time need a little bolt for the heart.”

Orange Sunshine
Hikari: “When I smell this fragrance it’s like the soul of a tree – there’s so much evergreen freshness in it. I love the work of Peter Doig. He’s a magical realist and paints from memories of growing up around Canada – it’s the definite light of Canada he’s captured here, for me, and I think anyone who’s been there would recognise it. There’s a sense of the cold air but also the golden warm tinge of the trees and sunlight that seems to set them on fire.”
From old favourites I already knew I loved – Good Girl Gone Bad, I mean who can possibly resist the utter thrill of telling someone who asks what you’re wearing – to the revelation of the brand new and exclusive to London fragrance of Royal Leather that kept me burying my nose into my own cleavage the whole of the train journey home (not something to do if you’re avoiding odd stares); the presentation was a triumph. I couldn’t be more thrilled with niche boutiques making Burlington Arcade – and London – their home, and this slowly rolling realisation among galleries and fragrance houses that art and perfume can inspire, collude and enrich one another in so many different directions: a treat for all the senses.
The Kilian Burlington Arcade boutique is now open, located at 51 Piccadilly, London W1J 0QJ.
Royal Leather, £245 for 50ml refillable eau de parfum spray.

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