Who: Mona Maine de Biran, co founder of Kierin NYC. Mona describes Kierin NYC as a New York City-centric fragrance brand and herself as an activist fragrance entrepreneur. She is committed to creating a brand that’s not just about great smells, but also about celebrating people and emotions and about ‘walking the walk’ as she describes it, on sustainability.
Her new brand feels clever, modern and relevant, as concerned with how a fragrance makes you feel as much as it is with smelling good. We caught up with her at the UK launch.
Today I’m wearing Sunday Brunch. The fragrance is a story of getting together with my city family. Since we were having many get-togethers on this launch day and I’m meeting a whole bunch of people that I hope will become my UK friends and fam’, it seemed like a really good celebratory, cheerful vibe to be wearing. It brings the smile and sunshine from within.
It’s a citrus and tea blend that embodies quintessential brunch with family and friends. You’re going to be in a very effervescent cheerful mood if you’re meeting with your friends and participating in this brunch ritual of sharing what you’ve been up to during the week. So it’s an intimate and sophisticated tea blend with a hint of floral, there’s a bit of jasmine on the dry down. It’s not about male or female, it’s just a very bold and unique fragrance helping you project your spirit into the world
We purposefully decided not to be ingredient driven fragrance brand. There is a laundry list of notes that are in each fragrance, but we don’t put those notes on our boxes because we think it confuses most people. Unless you are a perfumer yourself you aren’t going to know what those combined notes are going to smell like. As a consumer you want to know what the top three or four notes are but more importantly, you want to know how this fragrance is going to make you feel when you wear it.
So the scent stories are about the settings you’re going to be wearing it in. The vibes are all about how this is going to inspire you, what it’s going to make you feel like. In terms of Sunday Brunch for example, I wouldn’t think that someone would smell it and feel like taking a nap, it’s not peaceful scent! Instead it’s a joyful, bright and energetic fragrance. Whereas Santal Sky is that calmer scent, it has a sense of peace and tranquility.
We start our creative process for all our scents with a a poetic story about people. We create a mood board with visual representations and a soundtrack which we put altogether and give to our perfumer, Mathieu Nardin, who’s known for mixing his artisanal, multi-sensorial and modern techniques. He had the liberty to create an olfactory experience that embodies or evokes a moment in time, using the notes that he thought would do that justice. We edited that and co-created the blend with him thereafter.
We looked hard at how and why we wear fragrance. For example you might have one fragrance that is your day fragrance, or your office fragrance, or your going out to lunch fragrance, then as you transition into the night you might want to have a different vibe. So with Kierin NYC, you can be confident that the fragrance you pick at the start the day will work with any of the others layered on later, they wont clash with it.
For example, the bergamot accord from the Sunday Brunch is going to harmonise with the bergamot accord in the Nitro Noir, so you don’t have to take a shower to take one scent off. We did not intend on creating layering fragrances, but when we thought about how and where we would wear them, we thought about how they work with each other.
I think fragrance should be worn on any exposed skin, because it’s supposed to live on your body, the warmth of your skin will allow it to blossom. I don’t think we live in a society where it’s about only a dab between the skin exposed by white gloves, we’re not in the Victorian era. Today we’re more likely to be wearing a backless shirt or a mini skirt, so I apply my fragrance where ever it is going to be in contact with my warm body. I also apply it front and back, because I want you to smell me when I’m coming and when I’m going…
I’m definitely an activist entrepreneur. I think there are some brands that for marketing reasons try to embody certain values, then there are other brands that choose to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Just because a brand has a certain ethos because it’s trendy doesn’t really mean that they advocate for that ethos, but we truly do believe in everything we talk about.
With sustainability, you need to look at the big picture to understand what it really means. From the human impact, the industrial impact, the localised economies tied up in the chain, fair trade, naturals versus synthetics, packaging, what it all means to be properly sustainable. For example, if you have a refill policy, does that make it good for the planet? It’s not really a sustainable policy just to get a refill because the bottle needs to be recyclable first. We don’t pertain to be perfect, we put eco friendly policies at the forefront of our thoughts and we try to do our best. We’re constantly looking for new technology to implement because it matters to us and our consumers.
We do sometimes make choices that aren’t great for our margins, for example we chose a natural paint, which is more expensive than the synthetic paint, for the bottles but unless you paint it with natural paint the bottle’s not recyclable. So we’ve paid that bit extra to do the best we can.
Making the scents gender neutral is important to me. I used to feel an outcast because I love men’s fragrances, I would wear Koros and Fahrenheit and liked all the scents that my guys would wear. I used to feel shamed because I had to go to the men’s aisle to test them and the packaging was always geared to the male gender – all black and navy – so I used to think that I was odd. Then I became angry that the industry made me feel that way, so I became more vocal about fragrance for all genders. I mean why can’t men wear rose? My thought was always if you’re a man and you think women like flowers, so you buy them flowers to make them like you or maybe you buy them a floral perfume, but why don’t you just wear the flowers? I never got that.
Buy the Kierin NYC collection here
The beautiful photos of Mona are by the talented Chloe Winstanley