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Meet the Maker: Anna Ross of Kester Black

Kester Black was established in 2009 out of Anna Ross’ passion to create a business none like the others. Although Anna’s business initially began as a jewellery line, in 2012, Anna shifted her focus on producing Australian-made, ethically-made nail polish range.

We decided to check in with Anna to ask a handful of questions we’ve all been curious to find out!


WHAT INSPIRED YOUR TO START KESTER BLACK, THE JEWELLERY LINE? 
Coming from my Fashion degree in NZ, I moved to Australia because I knew the fashion industry had a lot more to offer me here in terms of opportunities and realistic growth prospects. I literally came to AUS with little more than my backpack and just enough $ to get me by. When you’re a fashion student who needs to keep a flourishing portfolio and can’t afford a sewing machine, you start thinking and thinking until you arrive at (in my case) jewellery.

Jewellery production has minimal to zero start-up costs and requires limited materials. It was what I needed at the time, and I’m glad I did it; it was a great start for Kester Black!

WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT IN MOVING KESTER BLACK FROM A JEWELLERY LINE INTO A HAND AND BODY LINE? WHAT WAS THE REASONING BEHIND YOUR CHOICE? 
I began researching enamel paints to use on the silver because I wanted to add a bit more colour. That led me to looking into nail polish, and I really saw a gap in the market so I decided to manufacture and sell my own nail polish line to complement my jewellery.

It was a major turning point in my career when, as the jewellery market had become really saturated and my nail polish sales were going through the roof, that I decided to focus solely on the nail polish side of things and lay the jewellery to rest.

Soaps are the more recent endeavour of mine; I guess it’s just a natural human instinct to continue growing and branching out. Sometimes the reasoning behind big decisions is as simple as that!

WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER NAIL POLISH BRANDS? 

We are different because we have introduced a nail polish brand that is about more than just colourful fingertips. It’s about beautiful design, high quality products and sustainable production.

Our colours follow the “Five Free Formula” meaning it contains no Toluene, DBP, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin or Camphor. All of our products are vegan friendly and come with Choose Cruelty Free (CCF), Cruelty Free International and Vegan Society accreditations.

HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT ETHICALLY MADE, ECO-FRIENDLY/ CRUELTY FREE PRODUCTS? 
The other night my sister was telling a story of how she gifted me her old/used lip balm when we were kids, because she knew I “liked the environment” and would appreciate something “recycled”. Keeping that in mind, I would say that yes, I have always been passionate about ethically made, cruelty free products.

I think it should be standard to give customers the opportunity to purchase cosmetics that are ethically made. I strongly believe that consumers shouldn’t have to worry about researching whether or not the product that they are buying is safe and that it hasn’t been tested on animals in any way. Those kinds of responsibilities should be in the hands of the manufacturer and that’s why Kester Black will always produce in an ethical manner, because we know the importance of using safe, organic and environmentally friendly products. I have always felt that my brand should reflect my own ethics and personal values, and I’m happy that Kester Black does just that.

TELL US ABOUT COLLABORATING WITH OTHERS AND THE PROCESSES ENTAILED. 
We love to collaborate! The wonderful Beci Orpin inspired me to embrace sharing my work with other designers and business owners whose ideas and brands align in some way with my own.

It’s quite a detailed process; but long story short, we approach a friend/artist/designer and ask if they’d like to be a part of a project where they can help choose colours, fragrances and concepts with us. Dawn Tan, who custom designed all our recent soap packaging, did such a beautiful job and is an absolute pleasure working with. Chelsey Bagan and I have been good friends for some time now, and collaborations with Trophy Wife are something that I really look forward to each year!

In terms of processes and nitty gritty, we have quite high minimums and because I like to keep Kester Black strictly on brand, we are very picky and choosy about the labels that we do work with. I would say that having a strong and non-negotiable brand identity is an integral part of any business.

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR WORK? 
I’m not one to boast too much about Kester Black’s cruelty free accreditations, but sometimes I think about the fact that I’ve designed a beautiful product that does not harm animals, and that makes me feel pretty great.

I like the idea that people can buy Kester Black and not think twice about their choice; whether it is environmentally friendly or not.

Also, since we have such a little team here at Kester Black, we’ve altered our working schedule to suit our yoga-loving lifestyles and as a result we have a 4 day week and leave early on a Friday! It has to be said, I love being my own boss!

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE TO OTHER YOUNG-STARTER CREATIVES? 
To any young self-starters I would say stay listen intently to anyone who you admire (in a business sense). When someone knows more about a certain topic then you, don’t be threatened! It’s a good thing, perhaps the best thing that could happen to you - so soak it up!

Also, choose a look and stick to it. Nothing is worse than a messy label.

WHAT ITEM(S) IS/ARE ALWAYS IN YOUR BAG?  
This is a tricky question because I actually don’t have a consistent collection of products that are always in my bag! The essentials will always be there, wallet, phone, keys and something to tame my mane; other than these few items, the lining of my bag sees the likes of colour chats, soap samples and everything in between.

FIRST CELEBRITY CRUSH?
I have a pretty big crush on FLUME at the moment, so I guess I never grew out of my celebrity crush phase. My first crush would have to be Orlando Bloom.

WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT TOP 10 SONGS?  

This question makes me laugh because in the office I’m always asking to hear Craig David. Not because I’m a fan, but because I like it when music allows you to act a little daggy and have a laugh - no offence to any Craig David fans.
10 is a lot! Off the top of my head I would say that at the moment, I love Holes by Electric Guest and Losing You by Solange are my favourites. Anything by Chet Faker or The Middle East makes me feel pretty good too (and Craig, of course).

 

 

Photography by Eve Wilson for The Design Files

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