Meet Kate Macdonald - Canvas Rebel

Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Kate Macdonald. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.

Kate, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?

There were a couple of pivotal moments that led to the creation of Váhy. Early on in my career as a corporate lawyer, I was providing a client labelling advice and discovered that perfumes did not need to disclose their ingredients in most jurisdictions. That then set me on a wormhole of investigation as to why this was, and what was actually in commercial perfumes. What I found out was not pretty, with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducting research on this point and finding on average 14 ‘secret’ ingredients are used in fragrances and sometimes more than double that number (see ). These secret ingredients have been associated with allergies, irritation, cancer, hormone disruption and, as importantly, have not been tested for safety in personal care products. I was completely blown away that these types of ingredients were not only permitted to be used in products we put on our bodies but also that the brands did not have label this and were knowingly including these ingredients in their formulas.

I asked one of my best friends Anna who was really into clean living and vegan and natural products about whether she knew this. She was equally horrified. Anna and I then made it our priority to find a natural fragrance alternative which was transparent about what was in its products and used premium quality natural ingredients. We searched high and low and when we couldn’t find anything we could substitute for our commercial fragrance for without compromising on sophistication of scent, longevity and style, Váhy was born.

Kate, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?

I along with my best pal Anna Weatherlake founded Vahy. Vahy is a natural fragrance house based in Melbourne, Australia. Our scents are PETA-approved cruelty-free, vegan friendly and made transparently (all ingredients are disclosed). In addition, our scents are 100% natural (in accordance with international standard ISO 9235) in composition and we have a long list of prohibited ingredients which we do not work with. These are listed in the ‘no nasties’ section of our website. This includes two of the most common ingredients in commercial fragrances, denatured alcohol and synthetic fragrance. We come from a place of radical transparency and honest, clean practices.

We trust our consumers, they know what works for them and what does not and we simply want to give them the opportunity to choose what they wear in an informed way. Váhy allows you to substitute your synthetic fragrance for one that is natural, transparent and does not compromise on style, quality, longevity or sophistication of scent.

Our brand is also motivated by our ethos, ‘balance’. Váhy means ‘balance’ in Czech. While we are both Australian, my family heritage is Czech. Balance was chosen as our ethos as we are seeking balance in many facets of our lives, whether this be balancing work and life; giving to your family and also working on self-care; or protecting the environment and also making consumption decisions. We think that purchasing products these days is voting with your feet on the kind of world and environment you want to see in the future. We wanted to give our tribe an alternative to commercial synthetic fragrances which are made without harmful chemicals, without animal by-products and with only pure, natural ingredients. In a way, you balance the decision to buy a consumable against ethos of buying one that is good as possible for the environment, animals and your body.

Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.

My co-founder Anna and I had backgrounds in media/journalism and law/project management respectively. So absolutely no background in 100% natural fine fragrance or product manufacture! This along with our core ethos of making no compromise when it comes to the quality of the products, contributed to over four years of product development and a huge amount of missteps along the way (including a manufacturer who refined our scents but tried to sneak in synthetics along the journey sending us back to the beginning of our journey!).

After taking Mandy Aftel’s (a god in the natural perfume world) amazing course on natural perfumery Anna and I knew we knew we had to find the world leader in this space to take our fragrances to a world class level where people would happily swap our their mass market synthetic fragrance for a 100% natural version and not feel like it was a step down sophistication wise. So we reached out to our perfumer and hounded her to work with us until she agreed. Persistence beats resistance! Our perfumer has been responsible for fragrances for Givenchy, Davidoff, Lanvin, amongst many other world leading perfume houses. The minute she formulated our range, it took our scents to a level we didn’t even know that 100% natural scents could get to. They are beyond belief and we’re very proud fragrance mamas.

Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?

Anna and I have been best pals since we met each other in University. We used to live with each other in a share house back in the day and know almost everything there is to know about each other. It’s such a delight being in business with a good friend, we’re completely honest with each other and we’re there to support each other when we’re feeling burnt out and also there to celebrate the wins! Our skill sets are also opposite but complementary. Anna is a media and marketing genius and I am on the strategy and ops side of the business.

Read the article on Canvas Rebel, here.