Mona Kattan is so passionate about fragrance that she got a part-time job as a teenager just so she could start building her collection. Today, her perfume closet contains somewhere between 1,500 - 2,000 fragrances, "It's pretty insane when you think about it, but I've always loved perfume," Mona tells The Beauty Editor.
"I had dreamed about launching my own fragrance for a long time, but it took a while for me to persuade my sister, Huda, to begin creating the collection since it’s pretty difficult to sell perfume on social media," says Mona. But, thanks to her idea for creating scents that could be mixed and matched and layered, Huda was on board and the rest, as they say, is history. "We want to inspire women to layer fragrance and not feel restricted, we want them to use KAYALI to have fun, express themselves and be creative," says Mona.
We talked all things fragrance with Mona and got her to spill a few secrets about KAYALI.
TBE: What is your first scent memory?
Mona: Rosewater and sugar. It goes back to when I was growing up in Tennessee and my parents used to bake these Arabian feasts. Something we’d try to do every holiday was to make an Arabian version of baklava and they would use this beautiful rosewater and I just remember the whole house would smell like rosewater and sugar. It’s such a pretty scent and delicious too! Arabs put rosewater in everything.
KAYALI means ‘my imagination’ in Arabic, which we think perfectly summarises the transformative ability of fragrance – it can take you to another place and time in an instant. Fragrance can bring back such vivid memories and that’s the reason we created KAYALI, we wanted to share that power.
TBE: Which perfumers or perfume brands really inspire you?
Mona: I’ve been wearing Watch By M. Micallef for about 15 years now! I was given it for my 19th birthday and then became addicted to it instantly. I ended up buying it for myself when I was 21 and it was the first expensive, niche product that I ever bought myself. I actually had to save money in university just to afford it, that’s how committed I was.
TBE: Tell us about KAYALI and what each scent means to you.
Mona: I love rich, oud-y smells but also soft, floral scents. Jasmin is definitely one of my favourite florals. When I was younger, I remember my mom had this really beautiful jasmine-scented perfume that she’d always wear. It wasn’t anything expensive or branded, but I always remember that smell and I associate it with her every time I smell jasmine. Both Musk and Elixir have notes of jasmine and are connected to this memory of mine.
Citrus always reminds me of Huda just before she went to cosmetics school in LA. Now anything related to citrus reminds me of her before she made a huge move that was just the beginning of where we are today! I don’t have a vivid memory tied to Vanilla, but it always makes me feel super yummy! It’s the perfect fragrance for going on a date, dressing up for something elegant or when you want to feel luxurious. It’s a very warm fragrance that can sweeten up or set the mood.
I change up my scent constantly and love to experiment! That’s why we created KAYALI, for others to feel comfortable doing the same.
TBE: You’ve said perfumes are like bookmarks in your life - any bookmarks that are particularly special to you and why?
Mona: There are so many! I consider scents as bookmarks to my life because scent has this incredible ability to transport you to different places and times. One scent can take me back to my first day of college, another can remind me of a holiday I spent with my family. It’s a powerful tool and something I’m incredibly passionate about.
TBE: How does perfume make you feel?
Mona: The right scent is the one that amplifies how you’re feeling at any moment, whether you want to feel sexy or confident, sultry or demure, fragrance can help you to achieve that. Layering your fragrances is another opportunity to make your scent your own.
TBE: How hard was it making your own perfumes?
Mona: We are perfectionists at Huda Beauty, so we definitely knew it wouldn’t be simple to create the perfect scents. It did, however, take many more iterations before we finalised certain scents over others which was pretty surprising. VANILLA | 28 was specifically the most challenging for us to perfect, it became a much more complex juice than we had imagined! The development process was so tedious that we actually decided to incorporate the rounds of modifications to show how different the process can be for each scent. So, the number next to the name of each variant represents the number of times we tweaked our formulas before we fell in love with them.
TBE: Do you have any perfume application tricks to help the scent last longer?
Mona: Vaseline! It provides the perfect base to extend the life of your favourite scents. Apply it to any area before you spray your perfume on top. I always put it on the back of my knees, my wrists and my neck. It’ll last for hours and help you smell beautiful for the whole day. If you don’t have Vaseline, any moisturiser would work!
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