Xpress Logo

Mona Maine de Biran | Kierin: Art, Scent, and Sustainability

May 13, 2024 | Scent Talks, By The Nose

Artist and entrepreneur MONA MAINE DE BIRAN, the rebellious force behind KIERIN, talks about the obstacles of building a small niche perfume house, from the physical challenges of the brand’s pop art bottles to her plans to reach a worldwide audience. Mona shares personal stories and explains how she draws inspiration from the vibrant realms of tattoo and graffiti in the streets of New York City. With a strong commitment to sustainability, she pioneers eco-luxury fragrances that define the clean and conscious essence of the brand.

 

So, Mona, please tell us a bit about yourself as an American, a mother, a female entrepreneur, an artist… You’ve lived in Japan and other places, and you have a passion for other cultures. How have these experiences shaped who you are today?

First on that list of things describe who I am would be “Mother”, certainly. My children bring joy to my every day. I’m a very loving mother who believes it’s a sacred gift. I am a lover of many things, like gardening which I do barefoot so I can feel the earth underfoot. I love entertaining, home cooking with and for others with ingredients from my own gardens. I love my people, my pets, my plants, my perfumery – KIERIN, an American, niche perfumery at its finest. I’m proud to be one of the few proud American brands, made in the USA, which tells you one other thing that I love – my country.

My artistic creative process at KIERIN is prepared; but it is not planned. It’s like a meditation. I just free flow, do and do and do, until something is done which inspires me, personally.

Living abroad for more than decade and exploring diverse cultures has profoundly shaped who I am today. Immersing myself in different societies has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the beauty and richness of human diversity. From the vibrant streets of Tokyo to the historic ruins of Europe and Peru, each experience has left an indelible mark on my soul. These influences, both modern and ancient, find their way into my creative process, like in the combination of the symbolism of Yin and Yang and the timeless chevron motif in my packaging designs.

 

Mona Maine De Biran Portraits 412c

 

At what point did you decide to establish your own perfume house? Launching a small niche brand in such a competitive market must be challenging. Could you share some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome?

Establishing my own perfume house was a culmination of passion, determination, and a deep love for the art of perfumery. KIERIN NYC, now known as KIERIN FRAGRANCES, made its debut in late 2018, amidst a landscape dominated by established players. Launching a small niche brand in such a competitive market was undoubtedly daunting, but it was driven by a desire to share my creations with a wider audience.

One of the initial obstacles we faced was in the choice of materials for our packaging. In our commitment to sustainability, we opted for eco-friendly paint on opaque bottles. However, this decision proved to be less than ideal in the long run, as the paint wasn’t as durable as required for perfume bottles. Our bottles were prone to scratching and chipping, and our travel sprays were susceptible to leaking or breaking during shipping. It took me a while, to be able to afford to do it, but I finally managed. And, in response, I embarked on a journey of refinement and improvement. Our new bottles, now under the KIERIN FRAGRANCES banner, boast enhanced durability and aesthetic appeal. The square, opaque 100ml bottles and glossy finish on the larger sizes not only exude elegance but also offer practicality and resilience.

Each obstacle encountered along this journey has served as a catalyst for growth and innovation. As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the fragrance industry, I remain steadfast in my commitment to delivering exceptional experiences and forging meaningful connections with fragrance enthusiasts worldwide.

 

Kierin is described on your website as an ‘eco-luxury’ brand with a commitment to being ‘clean and conscious.’ Sustainability seems to be a core component of your philosophy. Can you elaborate? How would you describe the current state of perfumery in this respect?

Sustainability is at the core of our philosophy at KIERIN. We’re committed to being clean, conscious, and continuously reviewing our practices. For instance, when presented with distribution opportunities that required animal testing, we stood firm in our values and declined. Our products are proudly vegan and cruelty-free, certified by Peta.org. We refuse to outsource cruelty to animals for the sake of our principles. In terms of being clean, we adhere to the Clean at Credo standards, recognizing the ever-changing nature of what defines “clean.” As for being eco-friendly, we’re always striving to do better. While achieving perfection may be elusive, we’ve made strides like eliminating plastic cellophane and opting for paper-based packaging. Our glass bottles are not only aesthetically pleasing but also recyclable, reflecting our commitment to environmental stewardship.

Sourcing ingredients sustainably, both for the planet and its people, is paramount to us. It’s not just about ethical farming practices but also empowering communities through education on sustainable farming. That’s why we’ve partnered with leaders like Robertet, renowned for their ethical standards and quality ingredients. In terms of the industry as a whole, perfumery still lags behind the beauty sector in terms of sustainability. Despite growing interest in vegan perfumes, the mainstream market remains dominated by conglomerates less inclined to cater to niche audiences. However, we remain steadfast in our commitment to promoting sustainable practices and setting an example for the industry.

 

Art – more specifically pop art, graffiti art and tattoo art – are Kierin’s muses. That’s quite unique for a perfume brand. Why did you choose them as sources of inspiration? Could you provide an example of how these art forms are reflected in one of your perfumes?

At KIERIN, we draw inspiration from unconventional sources like pop art, graffiti art, and tattoo art. These forms of expression resonate with our rebellious inclinations and disdain for conformity. We’re captivated by their democratic nature, accessibility, and ability to provoke thought and discourse. One example of this influence can be found in our fragrance “Rose Ink,” where the rebellious spirit of tattoo art is reflected in its dark and daring undertones. Our commitment to these art forms reflects our belief in the power of art to engage not just the senses but also the mind and soul.

 

Rose Ink

 

Your fragrances are known for their minimalist yet striking bottle designs and creatively named scents like ‘Sunday Brunch’, ’10 am Flirt’, and ‘Santal Sky’. How do you choose the names? Which typically comes first: the name, the scent profile, or the bottle design?

The names of our fragrances are the final touch in our creative process. We believe in crafting scent stories that evoke a particular vibe, experience, or emotion. Each fragrance is a unique journey, from conceptualizing the vibe to developing the scent story and designing the bottle artwork. Our minimalist yet striking bottle designs serve as visual representations of these scent stories, creating a cohesive and immersive experience for our customers.

For example, “10 am Flirt“. When I first moved to NYC, I was single and I lived in the Meatpacking district back when it was the meat packing district with the smell of meat on the streets. Very unpleasant! Usually in Saturdays, I would roll out of bed around 9:30-10 am after being out all night and slip on my favorite pair of jeans, whatever t-shirt I had left on the floor. My hair a hot mess, makeup on my face from the night before, I would head for the door. Like many other locals, I knew the way. I would sneak up to the High Line to enjoy the fresh air and walk my dog down the narrow path 5-6 blocks both ways. I still remember a couple occasions when I passed someone who I felt a connection with a magnetic attraction. Who, under any other circumstances, I might have pause for but… it just wasn’t the right moment. The exchange in passing was somehow enough. I kept walking. Not because I was shy. I just didn’t need more. The name – it was 10am. It was a flirt. It was fun. Light, airy, green, sunny, grassy…. It’s the perfect name for my High Line scent story.

 

Do you have any favorite fragrances from other brands? Is there a particular perfumer you admire? Which notes or materials are you personally drawn to?

I have a wide spectrum of fragrance preferences, ranging from Orientals to Freshies, with a particular fondness for Soft to Woodsy Orientals. Perhaps influenced by my travels in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, these scents resonate with me on a spiritual level. Sandalwood, Palo Santo, Incense, and Sage are some of my favorite single notes, while combinations like saffron/rose, cognac/myrrh, and passion fruit/cinnamon inspire creations like “Rose Ink,” “ScentXone,” and “ScentXme.” I admire perfumers who bring passion and creativity to their craft, such as Jérôme Epinette, whose work on “Bal d’Afrique” for Byredo I deeply admire.

 

From the outset, you partnered with Robertet, a very traditional fragrance oil supplier founded in France in 1850. Could you explain why you chose them and how you select the perfumers you work with?

When selecting partners like Robertet and perfumers to work with, passion is key. I look for individuals who share our vision and are either eager to prove themselves or seasoned artists seeking new opportunities. It’s a collaborative process that requires a certain mindset and creative flair. Working with Clément Marx on “ScentXme” was a testament to this collaborative spirit, allowing for exploration and innovation within the framework of our clean policies.

 

Clément MarxClément Marx, Robertet

 

[To Clément Marx, perfumer at Robertet] How did your collaboration with Mona and Kierin come about? What has your experience been like working with them? Additionally, could you tell us about the latest fragrance release, ScentXme, and describe the creative process behind it?

I enjoyed working with Mona with her contemporary and modern approach. Mona encouraged me to explore unexpected elements in the pursuit of something that would evoke a warm, wintery sense of renewal and mystery. While she made her expectations clear regarding her clean policies, she did not dictate the molecules she wanted to be used in the formulas. This allowed me to think outside the box in creating a special olfactive experience with ScentXme, giving it a cool, warm, effervescent appeal.

 

You have partnered with ScentXplore since its inception in 2019. How would you describe the event to someone who has never attended but is considering going to the upcoming edition in December?

ScentXplore offers a unique opportunity for fragrance enthusiasts and brand creators to come together in an intimate and personal setting. It’s a chance to discover niche brands, experience limited edition scents, and be the first to know about new products.

 

What can we expect from Kierin in the next few years, apart from fragrance creations?

I’m now gearing up to tackle the next obstacle: expanding our distribution network beyond online channels. While KIERIN has garnered over 300 doors internationally and is set to make a splash in Dubai’s premier shopping centers, our presence in the USA has primarily been limited to direct-to-consumer sales. My goal is to shift this paradigm and establish partnerships with distributors, brick-and-mortar retailers, and to support resellers reaching a broader audience so that I can spend my time in my happy place – the creative process, making fragrances people will love.

 

Mona Scentxplore2023Mona Maine de Biran at ScentXplore (2023)

 

What mark would Kierin like to leave in history?

KIERIN would like to be remembered as a leading American niche perfume brand. Illuminating, lighting up the world.

In 2 or 3 words, how would you define perfume?

Olfactive art: transcendent, inspirational, love.

Mona, thank you for your time and for sharing valuable insights with us. 

 

 

Kierin ScentXme 100ml Newbottle Pack Shot TimesSq 2048x2048ScentXme

A gift for the ScentXpress readers: KIERIN has generously provided a bottle of ScentXme for a special giveaway exclusive to our readers. To be eligible, you just need to sign up for our newsletter and leave an insightful comment below. The winner will be drawn from the comments within 2 weeks from the date of this article’s publication and contacted via email directly.

 

Follow Kierin on Instagram: @kierinnyc

Check out Kierin website: https://kierin-nyc.com

(images cortesy of Kierin and Clément Marx)

Join our mailing list to receive first dibs on NEWS and developments of ScentXplore 2024.

Name

Recent Articles

10 New Fragrance Drops | April 2024 (Part 1)

10 New Fragrance Drops | April 2024 (Part 1)

The first part of our April 2024 recap presents a diverse array of contrasting scents, such as the empowering femininity of FRAGRANCE DU BOIS' 'Sirène,' a seductive blend of cherries and incense, as opposed to the modern masculinity embodied in GISADA's 'Titanium' and...

DANIEL BARROS

DANIEL BARROS

Editor-in-Chief

DANIEL BARROS is Brazilian, based in São Paulo, and the author of  ‘1001 Perfumes: The Guide’. He has been collaborating with ScentXplore since 2021, contributing to content production and management, as well as organizing the annual ScentXplore People’s Choice Niche Fragrance Awards. In addition to his editorial responsibilities, Daniel is actively involved in mentoring niche brands and fragrance enthusiasts all over the world. Click here to send him a private message or report an error. Follow Daniel on Instagram @danielbarros_1001perfumes.

Similar articles you may enjoy

1 Comment

  1. A company with great values. I wish I could try some of their fragrances soon!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *