While most veg folks are highly conscious of animal ingredients on food labels, the long, complicated chemical names in beauty products can be more difficult to fathom. Mona Maine de Biran wants to free vegans from struggling through labels by offering them a line of critter-free, cruelty-free perfumes. That’s why she and her husband founded KIERIN NYC, a small vegan perfume company. Mona took time to answer my questions about her product.
Teresa: What non-vegan ingredients are commonly used in making scents?
Mona: Each fragrance is a unique formulation. There are any number of animal ingredients that can find themselves in a perfume. Things like ambergris (from whale intestines) and civet (a unctuous secretion painfully scrapped from a gland very near the genital organs of civet cat) can be used as a fixatives in making perfumes. Then there are the more obvious musk oils and animal based acids. Because the use of animal products in the beauty industry is common, I would personally always assume that, unless a perfume specifically states that it is vegan, then it is not-vegan.
Teresa: How do you develop your fragrances?
Mona: Our fragrances begin with a story, a NYC story. Each scent in our collection tells a real NYC story of life illuminated by fragrance, a story written by me. These stories are my personal experiences and, yet, they are not unique. Many people could relate to my experiences as their own. Our first collection includes: Sunday Brunch, 10am Flirt, Nitro Noir and Santal Sky. The fragrances were crafted in collaboration with perfumer Mathieu Nardin, a young perfumer known for combining artisanal craftsmanship with modern techniques.
Teresa: I know your scents are gender-neutral. Could you say a bit about your take on gender within the perfume industry, and why you decided not to participate in this binary?
Mona: I love this question. The answer is simple. I don’t participate in that binary because it’s insulting. As a model, I never liked fragrance marketers telling me what it meant to smell like or be a woman. They presumed that I should like pink, crystals and the smell of roses (I don’t). And so, my individualism denied, I was forced to shop for fragrance that I like in men’s aisles. I was always perplexed by the fragrance marketer’s logic. Is a Kandinsky feminine or a Warhol macho? When I go to an art gallery, no one tells me where to go. I think we can all agree, in this modern era, that labeling art as “for her” or “for him” would be insulting to us as individuals. Fragrance, like art, is for all… and should be free of gender-bias labels.
Teresa: Tell us a little bit about how you integrate NYC art into your brand.
Mona: KIERIN NYC is a brand for individualists boldly inspired to be. The white, opaque bottle is like a canvas. The label is purposely positioned “on the edge” of the square bottle as a metaphor for living life to its fullest. The collage art is reminiscent of the lifestyle of NYC and so many street art murals wrapped around the city’s building corners. Art is our muse– not spokesmodels or celebrities.
Teresa: Anything else vegans in particular should know about KIERIN NYC?
Mona: There are varying shades of green. KIERIN NYC is an uncompromising brand that not only offers consumers high-quality, distinctive blends that are vegan. Our collection is also cruelty-free, toxin-free, free of unnecessary stabilizers, free of skin allergens, parabens, sustainably sourced and recyclable. Not to mention that our premium fragrances are more accessibly priced than many traditional niche-brands, as a matter of principle.