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Launching a nail polish brand was a happy accident for Kester Black
founder Anna Ross. The Melbourne-based New Zealander was
actually looking for a way to colour her silver jewellery designs
when she decided to try nail polish for the task but found a lack of
cruelty free options so she made her own.
“I thought it would be a nice addition to my rings that were selling
really well at the time... and then [nail polish] just totally took over,”
Creating a formula that is free from toluene, DBP, formaldehyde,
formaldehyde resin, and camphor wasn’t easy. It took about 12 months
of research such as comparing other brands and looking at how
chemicals affect the machinery used to make the mix.
“When you mix nail polish colours in a factory that has previously
used formaldehyde and things like that, it actually shows up positive
in your nail polish test if you ever test for it. So not only was it really
difficult to come up with a formula, it was even harder to come up with
a manufacturing company that would change all of their equipment, so
that it hadn’t been in contact with formaldehyde and all the other nasty
chemicals for years and years and years,” Ross explains.
As well as being non-toxic, Kester Black nail polishes are also vegan
and not tested on animals. This passion for ethical treatment of animals
is relatively recent for Ross who became interested after a housemate
showed her a documentary on the issue. She stopped eating meat the
“I was so ignorant and unaware,” she explains. “So as soon as I
became aware I decided that I wanted to do something proactive about
it, not in anybody else’s faces, not to affect other people, but try and do
the best that I could.”
She certainly has. By running her brand like a fashion label and
marketing her nail polish as a designer product she is introducing
consumers to an ethically made product without them realising.
“I put a lot of effort and focus into creating it to be a designer product
and the cruelty free, vegan thing was secondary. I didn’t think anybody
would really care about that so I pushed it and promoted it as a design
product. I also didn’t want consumers to have to consciously make a
decision that was ethical or not.”
Ross initially intended to sell her products in fashion stores with the
idea that people who didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new
dress might instead buy nail polish. Now Kester Black can be found in
design shops and after noticing customers are buying the products as
gifts, she is targeting that area of the market as well.
“I find that when I do markets people buy it for Christmas presents
as well, which is really fascinating—everybody loves nail polish,
everybody buys it for their friends, you can’t have too many nail
polishes. It’s just another colour for another event, for another outfit so
it’s a really good gifting idea.”
Kester Black nail polish colours are inspired by what’s in fashion.
Ross uses Pinterest and a Pantone book as reference points. She
then ties in colour choices with a theme. Her range features 15
summer and 15 winter colours with five new shades each season.
The five least popular from each collection get replaced with the
Fans of the brand can also purchase nail art guide, The Hand Book,
which was a collaboration between Ross and Trophy Wife salon owner
Chelsea Bagan. The duo have also worked together to create Trophy
Wife nail polishes.
In the future Ross hopes to add other cosmetic products to the Kester
Black portfolio such as moisturisers, but her aim is to inspire others to
follow her lead in creating non-toxic, ethical products.
“I would love my nail polish to create a bit of a trend with other nail
polish brands and other cosmetics that they all go cruelty free and they
all go carcinogen free, so I hope I can inspire other people to change the
way they make their nail polish,” she adds.
“You want something that looks nice, works well and has a whole
lot of good points behind it, you know? There are lots of brands that
are eco-friendly and really great product and they have really good
company values, but they have awful packaging and bad colours, like
it should be so simple. I think that all beauty products should be eco-
friendly or not tested on animals. I can’t understand why we have to
research for days and days and days just to find out about one product
we may or may not use.”
The nail polish has had a massive response since launching in late
2012. Ross has found there is a demand for ethical nail polish and has
been featured in some of Australia’s top blogs and magazines.
“It was a huge risk what I did. I invested a lot of money and time and
effort into doing something without really considering whether it would
make me money, so I’ve done a lot better than I ever thought I would
and it’s awesome.”
This is pretty good for someone who was just looking for a way to
paint her jewellery. “I never planned any of it. Isn’t it funny how that
works out? I never thought I’d be making cosmetics, that’s for sure.
“I love it. I’m just really glad. I believe everything happens for
a reason.” ♦
Kester Black is making its mark on the gift
industry with its cruelty free, non-toxic nail
polish. RACHAEL GAVIN meets its creator.
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