When it comes to transformational skincare, Maison/Made is at the top of the list. With an origin story steeped in history and regenerative farming honoring co-founder Adrien's lineage at its core, this phenomenal line is a love story with the land made manifest. Pioneering Demeter Certified Biodynamic® skincare, Maison/Made's impact travels eons farther than simply skin-deep. Catapulting conversations around sustainability beyond the bottle to the forefront, husband-wife duo Adrien and Carolina's mission is built upon integrity, transparency, and reciprocity. Here, we sit down with co-founder Adrien de Bontin to discuss the journey of Maison/Made, what truly is Biodynamics, and how their creations not only help to renew the skin, but also the earth.
What was your journey to creating Maison/Made?
The origin of Maison/Made came out of Carolina’s love for self-care and skincare and her experience working in the fashion industry. While instinctively aware of the global climate implications that fashion creates, it wasn’t until she was exposed to the real level of waste it creates by working for one of the premier event production companies that she realized that she wanted to dedicate her time and life to a more worthy, helpful pursuit.
She and I were on my family’s ancestral property in northern Burgundy and contemplating her potential career shift while on a leisurely stroll through the oak and beech forests that surround the farm. Skincare has been Carolina’s passion since she was a teenager and working with plants had always been a dream of hers. Once they returned to the farm, I remarked what a shame it was that the old garden that had once grown food and medicinal herbs for the family had been left unattended for decades.
Then it clicked.
We should grow our own plants for skincare following the Biodynamic methods. Let’s create the world’s first certified Biodynamic premium skincare line. And Maison/Made was born.
Could you offer us a glimpse into the history of your multi-generational family farm in Burgundy, France that houses the Maison/Made garden?
Considering there are over 800 years of history on this particular property, I’ll try to keep it brief! The property was first established in the 12th century as a fortified farm, as was common in the Middle Ages, primarily growing grains and producing lumber. Later in the 16th century it was converted into a family estate and the house and farm that we see today were first constructed.
The property is now classified as a “Monument Historique”, a French national heritage site, a designation it shares with the likes of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. This is due to its historical significance as the family home of the Courtenay family, whose royal lineage is traced back to the ages of the crusades. Later towards the end of the 16th century, the chateau was also home to the Duke of Bethune, Prime Minister to Henri IV, then king of France, as well as others from French aristocracy.
Today it serves primarily as a place for my family to gather and spend time with one another, in addition to serving as the birthplace of Maison/Made. Since that stroll in the forest in 2016, myself and Carolina have restored the garden with a focus on plants that are best suited for skincare. We now grow over 50 different varieties of medicinal and aromatic plants, many of which are featured in the products you’ll find in our “Maison Collection”.
What exactly is Biodynamic® farming and what called you to it?
Biodynamic is a method of agriculture where the growing of plants and the raising of animals are both an homage to pre-industrial and chemical farming, as well as a leader of the organic and regenerative methods that we see as the future of modern, sustainable, agriculture. In short, we see Biodynamic as the most sustainable system of land-management currently in use. A Biodynamic farm is the quintessential model of what a healthy farm should be. The resulting fertility of the farm and its soil (which directly affects the quality of whatever it produces) is derived from the farm itself, a closed loop that does not generate unnecessary waste.
This is achieved through the following:
- The farm is viewed as a singular living organism, a self-contained, self-sustaining entity, following the cycles of its local ecology. A closed loop.
- In the US, Demeter has adopted Organic certification as the foundation, the base standard upon which Biodynamic builds further requirements.
- Cover-cropping is required, not simply recommended.
- Reserving 10% of farming acreage for natural, uncultivated biodiversity is a requirement.
- Use of the 9 Biodynamic “preparations” (specific formulas to enhance soil and compost quality and fertility, increasing microbiological activity).
- The use of any GMOs is strictly prohibited.
- The farm must recycle “waste” products into other areas of the farm, for example, composting and making homemade plant-based fertilizers and pesticides.
- People management practices are regulated, meaning that a Biodynamic farm must treat its employees and contractors fairly and equitably.
Perhaps the most important facet of Biodynamic agriculture is that this method of land management reduces carbon emissions in the atmosphere through a process called Carbon Drawdown. This means that through the regenerative practices of Biodynamic agriculture, Biodynamic farms can sequester more carbon into the plants and soil they cultivate, than they release into the atmosphere. This is significant because even if we were to somehow cease all emissions currently being released into the atmosphere, we would still need to draw down the emissions that are already up there. Biodynamics can lead the way in the agricultural sector which currently accounts for ~24% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the EPA.
In comparison with Organic, Biodynamic does go beyond the Organic standards in order to produce what are, in our minds, the highest quality products. There are a number of differences, but to highlight a few:
- The fact that an entire farm must be certified, not a portion or certain acreage.
- It is a global certification meaning the standards are applied no matter where a farm is located. Organic, by contrast, is regulated typically by the country so the standards can vary from one country to another.
- Biodynamic farms must keep 10% of their acreage free from cultivation in order to support and bolster biodiversity.
- There are increased restrictions on the number of organic fertilizers and pesticides that can be used on the farm.
As for what drew us to Biodynamics, I had been exposed to it since I was a child; it was how I was taught to grow plants. So, it was a very natural procession when we decided to create Maison/Made to follow the Biodynamic practices and philosophies. As we mentioned, we wanted to create a company that added a net positive to the world and apply that philosophy to every aspect of the brand, from soil to skin.
It was therefore non-negotiable that we use raw material that came from Biodynamic sources, and what could be more luxurious than products that are not only the highest quality, but also from the most sustainable, ancestral methods of production?
What’s an aspect of Biodynamic® farming that might surprise people?
It is the first and oldest agricultural certification that is still in use today! It existed decades before “organic” was a word that was applied to farming and still, to this day, has the highest standards for any agriculturally derived product.
What is the formulation process for your creations?
The ethos behind Carolina’s formulation philosophy is to create skincare classics that earn their keep in your routine. We strive to create the most vibrant and fresh products of Biodynamic origin which can be universally applied to any face.
We begin by addressing the purpose of the product (to cleanse, hydrate, replenish, exfoliate) and then work with plants and ingredients that not only work well on their own, but are known to have an affinity to work even better together. There is something to be said about the synergy between plants to achieve a specific effect. The whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Our Verdant Collection, by contrast, is a rotating portfolio of single-ingredient products that are exclusively commissioned from our certified Biodynamic® farming partners. The intention is to celebrate the uniqueness of the product's origin, the potency of Biodynamic® farming and is our way to directly nurture the Biodynamic® movement beyond the physical boundaries of our Burgundy estate.
How do Biodynamic® plants + oils create one of the most efficacious + transformational lines we’ve ever experienced?
It comes down to quality. The difficulty is that much of what creates a quality plant or oil is in the potency of its molecular constitution. Plant (and the oil that comes, primarily, from their seeds) quality is dependent on the soil from which they are grown. If the soil is depleted of nutrients and organic matter, then the plants will not be able to reach their full potential of the components we look for – antioxidants, phytonutrients, fatty acid content, etc. When a plant is grown biodynamically, we see higher concentrations of all the “good stuff” we look for.
Secondly, though no less important, is the fact that we work directly with the Biodynamic® farms and gardens that grow our raw material. This matters because we receive our raw material in the freshest possible way. When raw materials are purchased through retailers or distributors, it usually means that the material has passed through an average of 10-15 different “hands” after it is harvested by the grower. This means that there are many places in the supply chain where the material can be exposed to elements that degrade the quality of the plant material. Obviously, the sooner the plant material reaches our skincare studio, the fresher and more vibrant it is, and getting our plant material directly from our garden or the Biodynamic® farms we work with, is the fastest and best way to retain quality.
This is one of the ways that our products are able to perform as well as they do – they are fresher, more vibrant, and more potent with all the skin-loving phytonutrients we look for. Pair this with Carolina’s intentional and intelligent formulation philosophy, we are fortunate to be able to release products that are highly potent and highly efficacious.
You’ve created this phenomenal network of Biodynamic® farmers around the world. Tell us a bit about how you all crafted this network and how vital it is to the success of Maison/Made.
Thank you! It has been a long road - we began building our supply chain 3 years before we were able to launch our first product. This was because this kind of supply chain simply did not exist. There is no distributor that supplies ingredients in Biodynamic quality for skincare, or for anything else for that matter, so we had to reach out to farmers and growers and see if they could produce the raw material we needed. And for some of these suppliers, they weren’t making what we needed so we worked with them to create the ingredients we were looking for. We can’t think of any other company that has gone through the lengths to create what we were able to build, so this is something we are quite proud of.
While long and arduous, it was the only way to create the products we wanted to create – certified Biodynamic® luxury skincare.
When you’re on the farm in France harvesting + tending to plants for your offerings, what is the relationship/energy you feel with the land and the plants?
Working with and caring for plants is indeed a special relationship, which I highly recommend for everyone, even if its simply tending to houseplants. Even though we have been doing this for years, we still get excited every time we see the first leaves pop out of the ground. That being said, there’s a lot that goes into making the plants sprout out before we even seed them. Biodynamics demands a hyper-focus on soil quality, so we try to best prepare our soil to be rich in the nutrients that each plant expects (different plants prefer different soil types and soil compositions).
One of the main lessons we’ve learned is that no matter how much planning you do, most of the growing season is a game of agility. Every season brings different weather which means we are often adjusting the care we give to the plants. Too much or too little rain presents different challenges to keep the plants happy. Thankfully we work with medicinal plants which are generally strong and resilient plants meaning they can withstand much more than, say, fruit and vegetables.
While the work is tough and long, it is ultimately extremely rewarding. Seeing the fruits (sometimes literally) of your labor is incredibly satisfying when we finally see the end result of a MM bottle in our hands.
Is there one ingredient you’re particularly proud of? What’s its story?
One of our favorite ingredients is our Elderberry Seed Oil. As far as we know, we are the only ones to have it in Biodynamic®️ quality, and the manner in which it is grown, processed, and cold-pressed is quintessential small-batch, artisanal craftsmanship, and premium quality. The elderberries are a fragile ingredient because they are particularly subject to weather. Like most fruits and some berries, a late frost could wipe out a farm's whole supply. The elderflower (in our EdM maceration known as the Complexe du Jardin) is also uniquely beautiful, fragrant, and healing in its own right. There is also the history of elderberry as a powerful immune-booster when taken internally. For the skin, elderberry seed oil provides a strong omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 2:1 (omega 6 = linoleic acid and omega 3 = alpha linolenic acid) and is packed with a broad spectrum of antioxidants meaning it protects against a variety of different free radicals.
What is the greatest joy to creating the Maison/Made line? Greatest challenge?
For me, my greatest joy in creating Maison/Made has been the revival and reanimation of our garden in Burgundy. This is a property that I spent a lot of time in as a child and always fills me with warm, fond memories. Coming back as an adult and bringing literal life to the garden that once fed and healed my ancestors is an honor I do not take lightly. While it demands a lot of work and time, and can be frustrating at times, I would argue that it is a worthwhile and incredibly fulfilling endeavor.
As for the greatest challenge, it would have to be the juggling act of keeping all the proverbial plates spinning at the same time! We manage all aspects of the business, outsourcing virtually no task. Maison/Made is truly the result of ultimate dedication and commitment by Carolina and I to create something that we believe in, something that can demonstrate a better way of creating and managing a sustainable company.
You and your wife/co-founder/formulator, Carolina, recently became parents. How has your journey/perspective for Maison/Made changed since diving into parenthood?
We were elated to welcome our son into the world just a little less than a year ago and have been loving being new parents (despite the very real challenges it brings too!). One lesson he has brought us is organization and prioritization. Because our time is much more limited, he has forced us to make decisions and act on them much more quickly.
And, finally, what do you wish more people knew about Biodynamic® farming?
I wish people would stop assuming that Biodynamics isn’t scalable. With all the talk from large corporations asking their farms to adopt “regenerative” practices, we are shown that even large farms can make the transition without sacrificing profit. I am very empathetic to farmers that are stretched so thin that any margin loss will have a large effect on their business. The fact of the matter is that our agricultural systems in the US are currently so broken that there doesn’t seem to be a solution. The government rewards (ie “subsidizes”) farmers who use GMO crops, perform large scale tilling, and spray all sorts of dangerous pesticides and herbicides, rather than those who grow things organically or biodynamically! The outlook can truly seem very bleak at times.
That being said, if we can educate about and create demand for Bidoynamic products, like we do with Maison/Made, I think the consumer can demand this change. The more people value quality, quality of food or skincare, the more farmers will convert to satisfy that demand. Indeed, I think farmers would prefer to farm biodynamically, or at least regeneratively, than the current system of factory farming which is a very disingenuous approach.
Photos courtesy of Maison/Made