This week, Kristin is speaking with Mona Maine de Biran.
Mona started her adventure at 16 as a model, travelling the world and winning the Grand Prize on one of America’s biggest talent competitions of the 80s and 90s, Star Search. But when she started to “age out” of modelling, Mona was determined to start again and is now challenging the rules as CEO and co-founder of sustainable, ethical fragrance brand Kierin NYC.
In addition, Mona is the blogger behind Manhattan Minds– REAL NEW YORK CITY STORIES, for lovers of art, beauty, fashion and urban lifestyle.
For more on Mona or Kierin NYC:
@kierinnyc Instagram / FB / Pinterest / Twitter
@kierin.nyc (TikTok only)
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
Smells Like Success! From Model to Perfume CEO & Co-Founder, Mona Maine de Biran
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This week, I’m speaking with Mona Maine de Biran. Mona started her adventure at 16 as a model, travelling the world and winning the Grand Prize on one of America’s biggest talent competitions of the 80s and 90s, Star Search. But when she started to “age out” of modelling, Mona was determined to start again and is now challenging the rules as CEO and co-founder of sustainable, ethical fragrance brand Kierin NYC.
Kristin: Hi, Mona. Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing?
Mona: Thank you. I'm doing wonderfully. And I am very grateful to be on the show and it's lovely to talk to you and your listeners.
Kristin: You're in New York and I lived in New York for a long time. So I'd love to know how New York is doing, because I don't get back to visit as much as I'd like.
Mona: Yeah. New York, tough New York strong. It’s been a really difficult time. I think more than it has been for the more rural areas, just because of the density of the population and the small spaces in which we live as new Yorkers. So quarantine was particularly hard and those circumstances, but New York is surviving and thriving and now things are opening up and we have our mask mandates and vaccine mandates lifted, and people are packed in like sardines into the bars.
Kristin: Like new Yorkers.
Mona: and clubs.
And it's pretty amazing how it's just- flip a switch. It’s… it never happened. It's interesting.
Kristin: Yeah, life is back. That's just New York for you though. Cause I was I was living in New York during 9-11 and I don't know if you were there at that time, but
Kristin: Same thing. It was really tough and it wasn't like it just went away, but it definitely was the kind of thing that New Yorkers find a way to come together.
And they’re the friendliest and least friendly people I think in the entire world, but friendly at heart.
Mona: Yes, very friendly. And that's one of the things I love about New York city is they look past where you're from and just focus on where you're at in the moment. No matter what country you're from or what cultural background you're from, there's a lot of inclusivity and people getting together.
And that's the beautiful thing about New York City is how diverse and how inclusive it is as a population. And in these times, whether it's 9-11 or, during COVID or now the celebration, hopefully post COVID, if we can call it that, people are coming together even more.
Kristin: Yeah, love that. I do miss it. I really do.
So speaking of where people are from, you grew up in California, right?
Mona: Yes, California girl at heart.
Kristin: Which is so funny. Cause I completely associate you with New York, which we'll talk about later. So when, how old were you when you finally left California? I say finally, but I think it was quite young.
Mona: Yes. I was 16 years old when I set out on my world trekking path. But my toes have still been dug in this California beach sand ever since, no matter where I've been, I'm very much grounded by my California upbringing, if you will. I love California, but there's so much else to love in the world. And I couldn't wait to go see it. So I started early. I was 16.
Kristin: Was modelling what initially took you away from California or did you just have an adventurous streak that led to modelling?
Mona: Yeah. I think a little bit of both. I had adventurous streak and I was looking for an excuse. Modelling seemed like a good one as good as any other like the military.
Kristin: Nobody gave me the modelling option! So how did it come about?
Mona: I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And a photographer saw me and wanted me to get into modelling. And it was either that, or as I mentioned, the military, which I grew up the proud daughter of an Air Force man and had toyed to myself, you know, this was sort of the, the 80s, Top Gun.
And, I fancied myself sort of Kelly McGillis, wanting to fly my own planes and become an aero space engineer and thought, maybe joining the air force might be the way to do it. But then modelling came along and swept me off my feet and took me off to many other places instead.
The way most models do get discovered tends to be rather random, in a bar and a restaurant, a friend of a friend it's very rarely, girl walks into, a talent scout or modelling agency and then, embarks on an epic career. it's usually the inverse, you're not looking for it.
And then something happens, which was my case.
Kristin: Which is so cool- you're 16. This is not a very pleasant question, but 16, it kind of leads me to, did you ever have any experiences where you were still young and vulnerable and people tried to take advantage of you and, how'd you get through it?
Mona: I know of many stories that have happened like that. And there's actually one story. I was, it was the first year that I was modelling and I was staying with a girl from North Dakota. She was very sweet. She loved the Grateful Dead and poetry and was a voracious reader like myself, really a bit of an introvert and and shy and sweet.
And she'd been on a shooting with a photographer who then decided that he was going to pleasure himself while he was
Mona: shooting her. I don't know if he thought that she didn't notice because sometimes the lights are so bright. The tungsten lighting is very bright, so you don't really see what's happening in the shadows behind the light, unless you really focus.
So I don't know if he, knew or he, obviously he didn't care, but he started doing that. And so she was very affected by that, burst into tears. Came running home. And the minute I heard about that it was already in late afternoon. I just put my boots on and stomped over there, banged on his door.
I made a holy-hell ruckus banging on his door with all the old Italian ladies, in their pushup bras, hanging out the windows, wondering what this crazy American was doing, banging on this guy's door. And I didn't speak very much Italian, but I did speak quite a lot of Spanish and stuff.
So I started yelling at him with this really thick American accent in Spanish, calling him all sorts of names. And, I think that the Italians understand Spanish well enough to understand what I was saying. I, of course, interjected a few nasty English words. But, all basically to say that there's definitely risk for young girls and the industry was, and probably still is ripe with that sort of malfeasance and decrepitude.
But I was always a very bold, and some how intimidating, young woman. So people didn't really mess with me. So I didn't have any of those personal experiences.
Kristin: I love that you actually just stormed over to tell him what… you know, cause I don't know. I can put myself in the shoes of kind of both of you, because I think if it happened to me, I probably would have been the Midwestern girl who burst into tears and ran home. But yet if it was a friend telling me, I probably would have been put my boots on and I don't even care.
If I can’t say the words, I’ll beat you up or something.
Mona: yeah, no, I've never been a physical person, but I think because I had a very lonely childhood, I learned at a very early age that I had to take care of myself and I didn't have a strong support system, in my family. So I had to learn how to be very emotionally resilient and strong, even when I was 10, 11, 12 years old.
So by the time I hit 16, not only was I somewhat adventurous, but I was already, pretty level-headed and pretty strong and able to take care of myself maybe more beyond my years, because I had already been doing that, both physically and mentally and emotionally for years prior to that.
So I guess, what I would say is if you come from a very well-adjusted home and you have loving parents and who've nurtured and coddled you all of your youth, which is the wonderful way that every child should be raised, you probably are more at risk of being abused, and finding yourself in situations where you feel, sad and depressed, when you're out in the world on your own, then if you grew up at a really tough environment and you learned, even before you embarked on the world, you know how to take care of yourself.
Kristin: I don't know. It feels like in a way it feels to me like if you were I guess the ideal situation would probably be where you're raised in a way that you have all that love, but you're still taught the ways of the world and I don't have kids, so I don't know how you balance that, but it does seem like, you know, you don't want to not give your kids as much support and love, but you to want them to be ready for these kinds of things that happen in the world.
And I can't even imagine being able to get that balance. But it sounds like at least you had the tough stuff.
Mona: yeah. Yeah. And I do have two beautiful children and I, I definitely don't want to expose them too much to the the unfortunate things that can happen. They're still very young and they're the centre of my world. So I’m definitely the coddling-cuddling sort.
But I think that just being very pragmatic, at the appropriate age, appropriate time, and having those conversations, not just pretending like it never happens or wishing that it would never happen, but actually in an age appropriate, whatever that means to you, maybe on a child by child basis, having those conversations about things that, young women, in particular, need to be wary of situations that they need to try and not find themselves in, just because we still live in that world, it might not be quite as bad, as it was in the early Epstein days, but It's still, there's still a lot of things going on that unfortunately young women have to keep their wits about them.
Kristin: It's interesting. Cause I was reading that you are big into philosophy for children, the philosophy for children movement. And I didn't even know if we'd have time to talk about this or, if it would come up, can you tell me what it is and how you've been involved with.
Mona: well, I think, philosophy is- it starts with critical thinking and being able to think critically and being open to the idea of asking, real and meaningful questions in a world where we're very often bombarded with a lot of superficial reality. Taking the time to ask, very thought provoking and thoughtful questions and, in age appropriate ways inspiring children to think about those solutions themselves. Philosophy for children I think isn't about opening a book and, trying to, explain to them what the philosopher Maine de Biran, who was a philosopher or Kant or someone else thought it's not about instructing and then giving, quotes that, children should then memorise, like they would memorise the periodic table. It's really about trying to introduce the concept of philosophy as a thoughtful way of living that, where you can identify, sources of truth and, being able to ascertain what is. Truth and what is fake news, fake information, however you wanna define it. And then being able to have a a process of thinking and of really being, pragmatic in your approach to finding the answers to those questions of life for yourself.
And I think that philosophy for children is is a wonderful thing. It also is a way of helping teachers to take a more engaged approach with the children, as opposed to just, objectifying the children in the sense of how they're teaching information as opposed to engaging children in the discovery process of information.
I think, teachers benefit from learning about, the ideas of philosophy for children, as well as children, practicing them with parents. And so my work with Philosophy for Children, it's really just raising awareness that the need for, a critical process of conversation and thinking and educating children about, how important it is to, basically ask themselves, these questions on a daily basis and to take a bigger picture, look at life which surrounds us with a lot of distractions.
I think it's also a great way for parents to bond with their children, ask questions of that nature as well. So, I think everybody should really be asking themselves these questions, whether you're a child or an adult, but too often, we wait until we are adults cause we think that philosophy has to be this very intellectualised, data information, know, memorisations of other people's ideas, dates, times, and this, as opposed to taking it as something that is core to each human being's existence, living consciously living a life.
In a way, which is philosophical and meaningful as opposed to just material or, reactive, if you will.
Kristin: It's so interesting because having been raised at a time where I think it was… maybe I was on the cusp. But, it was always the why? Kids are why, why, why? And I know my dad loved to say children are meant to be seen and not heard. I mean, come on dad!
But the why questions. I feel like now we're living in a time that parents are finding the need to answer- what's the pandemic? What’s COVID? Why, or is there a war going on in the Ukraine? you know, all of these kinds of questions, and I can completely imagine why kids are so much better off being told the answers or being asked, “what do you think about this?” And given the opportunity to discuss, instead of making up their own, often really fatalistic, nobody's explained this to me, so in my mind, it's even worse or I don't understand it, so it's even scarier kind of thing.
Mona: Or if, they don't know how to think for themselves, just turning to their favourite YouTuber and, adopting what's what they’re… not to say mainstream, but you know what their, social role models tell them, parents are wonderful teachers and guides and they, come with lots of experience and expertise, but a parent's truth is never going to be the whole truth of the child.
So the child should also, in addition to respecting the parent and their authority, on certain levels, they should also question whether or not the parent's truth is really their truth. In an age appropriate way, every child has to emancipate, not just physically, but mentally and philosophically, they have to develop their own worldview.
And so giving children the tools and to think helps them to develop a worldview that's true and meaningful to them. And there we'll start them off on embark them on the life, which will then be less conflicted, in the sense that, they're better equipped to deal with situations, being their true selves, as opposed to, just following the herd, I guess. So that's the idea of, Philosophy for Children is is equipping children with tools like that.
Kristin: I'm really glad I asked about it, cause it's really fascinating. However, I need to get back to the modelling thing for a minute. I'm going to go back because I want to know about Star Search. I grew up watching
Mona: Oh my gosh.
I was like, I love talking about philosophy and yet let's talk about Star Search. For those people that are listening in places that aren't America or of ages that aren't around mine, Star Search. I I- you were on it so you can tell me a lot more- but I would call it the predecessor to American Idol or, all these kinds of shows that now the… what's the one where they spin around on the chair?
I don't know… The Voice, one of these kind of reality, but a real talent competition. Britain's Got Talent. That's a good example for over here.
Mona: I had a lot of fun working with the crew, and the people who were, behind the scenes, the sound man, the, video editor, the stage crew, they were a lot of fun. And since we were sequestered on Disney property for six whole weeks, which pretty much rid me of any desire to go to Disneyland for the rest of my life, Disneyland for six weeks.
They, we just had a a lot of fun together, being extremely immature and running around like mad because we were just basically, going stir crazy in between shoots, but it was somewhat expected, unexpected cause. You know when 11 episodes and then the grand finale of the show.
So every time I thought, okay, I'm going to go home now I would win when the show would have to stay another week.
Kristin: A mixed blessing
Mona: Yeah, so I got my fill of Disney. Let's put it that way.
Kristin: And it was the spokesmodel competition.
Mona: Yeah. I don't really know what the difference is between a sort of a spokesmodel and a model, because they didn't give us the role of introducing the acts in the show, but they did, have us ask questions and things like that. and.
I'd had some experience, working on TV as a New York correspondent at the time.
So it was I think it's more like being a correspondent, a traveling correspondent for a news channel, then it was really being a spokesperson because we didn't stand up and and introduce the acts or, recite a script or anything. We just engaged with Ed McMahon on stage, like a correspondent would, engage with the passer-by or on the street to ask them about some current event of some sort.
Kristin: I had to ask about it. Cause I just remember, I think I wanted to be on it because I wanted to, you know, I was going to be like the next singing actor, I think there was like the young Star Search or something. And I was like, oh, I just want to be up there singing.
Mona: They had great singing acts and dance acts at Bobby Brown and Sharon Stone. And, there was a lot of… Sinbad was discovered
on this show. There were talent scouts in the audience as well. It was a good way for people who are aspiring to be in the entertainment industry to get discovered.
Kristin: So what's the story in between? because now of course you're running this amazing fragrance label? brand? What happens when you're a model and you're transitioning into business?
Mona: Yeah, for some models, they're not because they never know when to step off the train and then they end up, ended up as a wreck at the end of the tracks. But I saw the writing on the wall at some point, you start to “age out” of the work. And I always said if I started making less money modelling than I was making every year, that would mean that it was time to switch careers.
In the early days it was fast and furious, you'd have two jobs a day and five, six days a week, but eventually, things start to slow down. And that's when I decided that I wanted to get into a publishing. I really loved publishing, but I couldn't get straight away in a publishing, so I went after a marketing job. And worked at a company which was purchased by 24-7 Real Media, which is basically like text-based marketing. They had this “pound now” technology, which is what we see today as ads delivered to people's cell phones through their messaging app.
So I worked with that company Elbit in the early days, and then went, I got recruited over and was the advertising director and then the executive vice president of sales for Niche media. So I did manage to get into publishing. That was good. And I got to enjoy, working with all the people who are, the editors and talent over at Niche Media, Hamptons magazine, Los Angeles Confidential.
It was a lot of fun.
Kristin: Did you find any issues because you left home at 16, didn't go the kind of traditional university route kind of thing? Did you find any challenges?
Mona: I think that there's always challenges.
It's just a question of whether you have the will and perseverance to overcome them. So I'm sure that there were a lot of people that never called me in for an interview because I didn't have the appropriate pedigree, but then there were a lot of other people who were open to someone who is a go-getter and who was a hard worker and who had basically, been, very hardworking since an early age. So I think it's not as black and white or it wasn't as black and white and day where there was a lot more human interaction in the interviewing process.
Maybe now things are different, maybe now it's harder because so much happens, through email and the internet before you even have a chance to see somebody or speak to somebody in HR manager or hiring manager. But the time that I was making that transition, there was still fax machines and people were still taking the resumes by hand.
And there was an opportunity to make an impression before people would just even read your resume. So that was helpful.
Kristin: Yeah, I think it's interesting talking to women who've made these changes often. The idea of the podcast is 35 plus, but often 40 or 50, or… they’ve been doing something different maybe, or even out of the work industry entirely out of the traditional job industry. And I think a change is this kind of automatic automation.
What's the word? Of a CV/ resume being scanned for certain words before you can even get in the door. But one of my big things is life experience is so many times over can sometimes trump education or job experience, because everyone I've talked to has lived these lives that clearly, I don't know, are just more important sometimes than saying, yeah, I went to this school or whatever that is.
Mona: Yeah I think I love Elon Musk's sort of his philosophy that school doesn't really teach you how to be successful. It teaches you how to be an employee, not necessarily a business owner or a successful person, managing your own finances and things of that sort.
So I think it's incumbent upon us to be self-starters and to be really committed to learning a life. Of learning a lifelong passion for learning. And I speak French, Spanish, Italian. I speak a little bit of Greek. I lived in Japan for three years. I learned to speak enough Japanese to get around when I was there.
I love to read, whether it was the classics when I was younger and, sitting around, waiting for the sunrise to rise or somebody to do my hair and makeup or self-help books and how to sell or how to, win an argument, which is somewhat like selling.
Back when I was trying to transition from modelling into the business world, trying to. Find a lot of books, Barnes and Nobles to educate myself on where I felt I had gaps. So beyond college, there's an opportunity to learn. And so college can prepare you to have the habits for good study, like how to be a good student.
But if you don't, bring them forward into your adult life and adapt them to what is your new circumstances say? Okay. Maybe you have decided that you no longer want to do the career, which you thought you wanted to do, and for which you have to do. How do you retool yourself?
How do you reinvent yourself? You have to go out there, you have to find resources. If it's not your local library or the bookstore podcasts, or, reading blogs online, you have to find a way to educate yourself, to organise yourself, to be a good student, to create a plan for yourself on how you're going to take the next step.
And I think, college is good because it teaches people very important things, especially if you're going to be a doctor or something very specific that requires certain knowledge set. But if you just, want to get into the creative world, you got to create, if you want to get it, if you want to be as a manager, you got to manage, so life, will require you to do those things.
It's not just studying them, that will give you the skillset to do them. I would've been happy to go back to school. I always thought of school is oh, that would be awesome. If I could just go to school and just study and read and, just chill and kick back and have somebody else pay my bills.
Kristin: Yes, I am with you a hundred percent.
Mona: But I always found myself in a situation where it was always like, okay, I'm making money. Why am I going to stop making money in order to go back to school make no money, so I can have a degree so that I can make money? If I'm already doing it, why do I need to go to school in order to learn how to do it, to have a piece of paper that tells me I can do it to then go back to doing what I'm doing right now? So let me just do it, so I guess that's why I never went back to college, but I'm a big fan of college. I just think that, learning and and teaching yourself doesn't end with college. And sometimes people forget that.
But after I did work in publishing, I actually decided that despite the fact that I really loved. Publishing. I loved everything to do with it, writing and and books that I wasn't making enough money at it. So I got into technology and started working with ADP and Ceridian, and eventually got recruited by Oracle and worked in the large account management division for HRMS, human resource management systems.
So I went from modelling to publishing as a sale advertising director to then the, the executive VP managing some of the structure and operations of the company to then getting into tax and payroll software and HR software systems. And I ended up being one of the top salespeople. I was on the Board of Directors.
I won awards at ADP and Oracle, I got the pinnacle award as the number one seller. I sold sex with Ave, their HR system, Hudson bay. So that was really good. And I remember asking the hiring manager, who initially hired me back at ADP. What was it that made you think that I would be good at this?
Cause I had no experience in technology. I didn't have a laptop. I'd just gotten a cell phone, maybe the week before the interview, like technology was not my.
thing. And he said that I was very adaptable and I had a tremendous willpower. And then he knew that if he put me in a situation and gave me the information and the tools that I would find a way to make of what was, cause obviously in the beginning he gave me the dog list.
I got all the hand-me-downs and unwanted accounts that none of the other big sales guys who've been there for 20 years. He said I had this list that was such a dog list that nobody would want it. I had to find somebody who was very out of the box, who had an indomitable will, who was just going to figure out how to make it happen.
And I thought that you'd be that person and actually turned out to be true. So I guess, and then, I became a mother things slowed down a bit and then I transitioned into fragrance.
Kristin: So did you spend time at home with the kids before the fragrance thing happened?
Mona: Yes. I'm very happy that I had that chance and that opportunity to do that after having been successful in technology, It was a very long workday in the Oracle world, long hours unrelenting, travel. So I, when I had my children, I didn't want to be absent from their lives and working that hard.
I wanted the flexibility to be in their lives and be nurturing. So I decided to take a pause from the business world in order to be the mom that I always wished I'd had and wanted to be for them.
Kristin: You're now in the business world with Kierin NYC, an amazing sustainable cruelty-free fragrance company.
So tell us a little bit about.
Mona: Kierin NYC brings together some very… it's not reinventing the world, it's just reigniting the world. So we're bringing the gender or gender-inclusive unisex trends together with the clean beauty trend together with sustainability and ethos of conscious living.
Diversity and inclusion are very much the forefront of our brand and, you know, being cruelty-free and vegan. So all of these trends in fragrance or beauty have, existed, but there wasn't one single fragrance house that was committed to all of these things in one. And as a human being and as a mom that I was committed to all these things in one.
So if I was going to make a company, I definitely wanted a company that included, all the best things of the, what I thought, the were the best things of the fragrance industry, as well as extremely high quality ingredients, using a lot of natural oils. And award-winning, perfumers, those things, you could arguably say, there's a lot of brands that have all those qualities, but Kierin NYC is the only one that I think combines them all together in a unique and bold, colourful way.
Kristin: Your husband had been working in perfume before this was this something that he came to you and said, oh, I'm thinking, we should start something or you seeing what he was doing and going, we could do this better. How did that happen?
Mona: Yeah I think I'm going to go with the latter, which
Mona: listening, but yes, he has, had been, for 30 odd years and a very prestige division with Bulgari perfumes and Prada. So he had a very classical point of view with regards to perfumery. But at the same time, he's also, you know, my husband and has modern sensibilities as well.
So I think he saw the opportunity. I just took it a lot further than initially he'd envisioned it. Let's put it that way.
Kristin: I also know that you have a different model the way you sell everything, it's more direct to consumer versus, you go to the super… supermarket? I should clarify for everyone. I don't typically buy my perfume at the supermarket!
You don't go into a department store and try everything on. And what made you decide to go that route? That's really not very tradition.
I think cosmetics had proven and has proven even more so that the future for consumers is direct online, and initially. 10 years ago people said, oh, no one will buy lipstick online and they have to try it and see if the colours match. But then people started buying cosmetics online.
And I think the same is true with fragrance. If people said, oh, no, one's going to buy a fragrance that you can't smell online, but. You know the world is changing. Everybody's doing much more of their life and are living their life online. So it was inevitable that DTC would become a big part of the fragrance industry.I launched or we launched in:
And they'd been blindsided by COVID and it was like “told ya!”, you know, you guys, slow on the draw, you should have seen that coming before COVID hit, but the industries have now pivoted, quite substantially. And there's a lot more effort and money being put into direct-to-consumer in the fragrance category as well.
Kristin: As someone who typically wears what is considered a “men’s" fragrance as well, I'm really intrigued by, that it's just fragrance for people, as opposed to, “for him, for her, you have to be a man to wear this”. I know you're really passionate about that.
Mona: I am I, and I launched the Kierin NYC, I was deeply offended that and I almost considered which fortunately, I didn't really have the option. I almost considered not listing on Amazon because Amazon wouldn't allow me to categorise my fragrances anything other than for women, for men or for children; can we just have a unisex category here?
Why do we have to say that the fragrance is for this or for that it's just fragrance. You don’t say salad is just for her, for him. Or, these are, has to do with individual tastes. It's got nothing to do with gender, but I was always been a pet peeve of mine. Go into perfumery or department store and see the aisles bifurcated by gender.
When I don't think that our noses really know the difference - it’s just a question of personal preference. And I was very committed to making sure that our brand, every single fragrance that we do is always uh, gender-inclusive. So if you like woody scents and in your culture, woodsy notes might have historically been stereotypes is manly, then that's fine, but there are other cultures that would see rose, for example, as a very manly scent. In Arabic countries, for example, they think of rose as being a note that's much beloved by men's fragrances. Whereas maybe in, in England or in the United States, you would think of it as more for the ladies.
It's a cultural thing and my having lived in many different parts of the world, my mission has been to try and bring cultures together and bring the genders together so that we can just, as opposed to, defining ourselves in opposition to each other.
Kristin: And as far as the animal cruelty and the vegan side of things, with perfume, I don't always think about how well not sustainable or at cruel to animals or, all the other parts of the business that you've really highlighted. But I know from hearing you speak elsewhere, that perfume can be pretty bad in a lot of different ways.
Mona: Yeah. There's a lot of things that can be worse in the world. Weapons of mass destruction.
Mona: I don't think ranks is the one of the worst things. But it certainly is bad and very bad when we use vulnerable beings, whether they be human or animal to test something that is just purely for an aesthetic purpose. I don't necessarily draw a hard line on testing against animals if it's going to save lives. This is like a medical - very important medical use. But when it comes to testing on animals, just for beauty products, I just find that obscene. I don't understand, why anybody who loves their cat or dog would wished that upon the hoards of, little bunnies and kittens and dogs that are in cages, in laboratories.
And I know lonely and abused and suffering, not understanding, why this is happening to them. They have feelings too, you wouldn't want that to happen to your pet. So why wouldn't you take a stand and vote with your wallet? If corporate conscious won't take a stand and will always do what is the most convenient for its bottom line. It's beholden to the consumer to take a moral stand and not buy products that they know are unethical and doing things that are, are not right and not kind. You know, if we want to have a kinder world, we have to not only be kinder, but we also have to be inquisitive and thinking about the products that we buy, how are they how are they, formed, because otherwise we're just outsourcing our unkindness with your wallet.
So if you're just going to buy some product and let somebody else give you something, that's really cool, that gives you pleasure. But you're going to close your eyes to whether or not it was made in an ethical way, then you're somehow unconsciously or unwittingly being unkind.
Kristin: Yeah. I feel like the consumers are saying to businesses we want this, but we also need the businesses who are providing products that really are walking the walk because when it comes down to it, I think everybody in their hearts - most people in their hearts - want to be kind, but we need options as well because at the end of the day, I mean, I can say I should buy less.
I could say all these kinds of things, but we're still people who consume. So to have these kinds of options is really important.
Mona: And to have people who like you, or like other people who educate and share, you know thought provoking ideas about, oh, a lot of people wouldn't even think about, the fact that animals were being tested for the perfume that they wear, that they might not realise it unless there was somebody who was a writer or a podcaster or YouTube, or who raised that subject to their awareness, by the way, did you know that?
And then say, oh not only do you know, is this a problem? But there's also the. Companies that address that or who don't partake in that, and you can go here, So consumers need the information they need to be woken, but then they also need to, like you said, have the options available to them, easy to access and, as well.
And then eventually, the bigger companies once they start losing market share, or then say, feel the weight of the oppression of being, named bad guy, they then shift their business practices because, it's good for PR and, or it's good for bottom line because it helps them, re acquire or compete.
And and I growing, cruelty-free cleaning conscious market.
Kristin: So for people that do want to be doing the sustainable cruelty-free and the old gender perfumes, where can we buy Kierin NYC?
Mona: In the UK, it we're on the perfume shop and ASOS And in the United States, we, like we mentioned, we do a lot of direct to consumers. So on our website, www K I E R I n-nyc.com, kierin-nyc.com. We're also on Amazon. We are in, many different other marketplaces, for cleaning conscious products, that are out there, perfumeries, we're not in department stores, as a niche brand.
We are, either available in niche perfumeries boutiques or on our website or niche platforms vegan or cruelty-free websites that, that sort of.
Kristin: So for people that are a little bit nervous about buying a big bottle of perfume online, without trying it, you have like a test or pack, right?
Mona: Yes, we do. It's the try before you buy model? Actually we would love it. If everyone would start off with their very first purchase from carrying NYC being just the discovery set. Sure. The, full bottle of fragrance is $94, that's nice.
But the discovery set gives you for just $24. It gives you all four fragrances. So you get to try four and it gives you a bounce back coupon. So you get to take $20 off your $94 purchase. So it's, we really try to favour and encourage people to first their first experience of caring should be, get the discovery set, try it, try all four of them.
We've got six, so you could get some 30 MLS or 10 MLS of the other ones, but try the discovery set. And hopefully there will be one there that you like, and then you'll get $20 back off of your full bottle.
Kristin: And that just sounds so fun to me anyway. Cause I feel like sometimes perfume is really with my mood because I said, I tend to go for these. What would traditionally be known as masculine sense? But I also love like fresh citrusy kind of daytime stuff as well. So it'd be great to have the discovery set to match.
I think that's such a fabulous idea just to match your mood anyway.
Mona: Yeah. Yeah. And it's also just a nice way to make sure that you really liked the fragrance before you buy a full bottle. So I think it's kind to the consumer to be able to sample those fragrances. Discovery sets are growing in popularity and they're particularly useful for people who want to buy online and don't have the opportunity to, smell the fragrances.
And then, and the defence of the companies that don't offer discovery sets, if they're in the department store and you're standing there at the counter and you can use the tester and, experienced the sense right then, and there, you don't really need a discovery set.
Cause you just, you just smelled it so you can either buy it or not buy it,
Kristin: I disagree because I like to walk around all day. I need to walk around all day, smelling it. I need to see how it grows and changes. I think maybe in the perfume industry, you call it opens or something, I guess. I need to, yeah, I need to smell it on me and my mom, I know is a bit allergic to certain sense.
She likes to wear it and she'll know fairly instantaneously, sometimes it does take a little time. So
I'm going to go back to, I love the discovery set.
Mona: I totally agree with you. I think it's you definitely it's nice to live with the scent and a couple wearings to know if it's really something you want a full bottle of. I definitely agree with you there.
Kristin: We talked a lot about the, why you're doing all the genderless and the sustainability and everything, but we didn't really talk about the fact that it's the New York story. So one of the things I love on your website too, is, you know, I'm going to look at Sunday, brunch the fragrance, as much as I love Sunday, brunch the meal and read the story behind it.
And it's all very New York City.
Mona: Yes. I love New York. I know as much as I have, California in my heart. I have a tremendous amount of respect for New York and what the city stands for, statue of Liberty and diversity and embracing an inclusive state of mind and culture. So I think that New York City is a very vibrant city live in, and whether you're a morning person or a night owl, 24, 7, there's always something interesting to do.
And so being able to share that a little slice of sunshine and life of New York with people all around the world, I think is great. And also it's just an opportunity to highlight some of the things that I think we can all relate to like a Sunday brunch, no matter where you are.
Yes. The Kierin NYC Sunday Brunch fragrance may be about, getting together with your city fam down in the West Village, seated at a street side cafe and enjoying a long, lazy brunch into the cocktail hour, but I'm sure that no matter where you live, you've had those experiences too, in your town, the idea of getting together with your family and your friends on a Sunday and sharing those warm moments together.
That's really what Sunday Brunch is about. It gives you that sort of lifting feeling to go out there and have a Sunday Brunch or have that sort of state of mind of, one who's cheerful and relaxed. So I think fragrance can set your mood And give you, the vibe that you're aspiring to have, whether that's, soft and sweet or, daring and sexy.
Like our Nitro Noir is very like bold and unapologetically sensual or cheerful and warm and inviting like the Sunday Brunch.
Kristin: And this is why I need the discovery set because I'm unapologetically sensual AND very cheerful. It's perfect. So I feel like our conversation has gone full circle from New York to New York, but I have to ask if you have a quote for me today?
Mona: Now. I know that you do love quotes, and I don't have a quote from someone else that I'd like to share. But what I would say is in terms of myself is, where there's a will, there's a way.
So on a podcast where it's really about second chapters and trying to inspire people to reinvent themselves or to step out of the old and move into the new, I would say that if you commit your will to having a second chance or a second chapter, that there is hope and that you should not, be shy about the possibility that you can manifest that.
And and so I guess my quote would really just be encouragement. Go ahead, make it happen. You can do it.
Kristin: I love it. And I think the thing that's interesting to me about the quotes is sometimes, sometimes it's something that's really famous. Sometimes it's something that's really obscure, but it always means something to the person who's saying it. And I think that's, I'd rather have that.
Mona: Yeah, sure. I could go, in preparation for this podcast, I could go through my books or I could you know, search, very intellectual esoteric, thought provoking quotes to make me seem really smart. But ultimately when I do a podcast or an interview, I just want to share my truth.
And in podcasts like this, it's about second chances. Just letting people know that I did it and you can do it, and we can all do it where there's a will, there's a way. And if you just, commit yourself, commit your will to closing the door on the past and opening the door and opening your eyes to the possibilities of the future, then, the second chapter will begin.
Kristin: Oh, I love that “the second chapter will begin”.
Mona: Or the fourth. I think I'm on my eighth chapter now! I'm not sure.
More than two.
Kristin: It's so hard because I do tend to talk to people that even though it's called the second chapter, I'm like, so… chapter 10…
Mona: Yeah, I know!
Kristin: When I do all the kind of research behind it and, read more about the people I'm like, where do we even begin? Because people have such fascinating lives.
I absolutely love it, which is obviously what I'm doing this.
So the second chapter will begin. But for now, The Second Chapter will end- just by saying thank you so much for joining me. I really enjoyed chatting with you.
Mona: I had a wonderful time chatting with you and I wish you all goodness and safety and wellness, especially in these times.
Kristin: Thank you.
Mona: Take care.
Thanks for listening!