Mona Kattan has made the most of her lockdown, emerging with a smile, an investment in new feminine health brand, Ketish, and a suite of new fragrances for her Dubai-based fragrance house, Kayali. Despite the slow-downs experienced across the rest of the beauty industry, Kattan has celebrated Kayali’s biggest year yet in 2021, releasing three fragrances in the span of eight months. The last – and largest – launch of the year is Invite Only Amber 23 Eau de Parfum Intense, dropping tonight. Speaking with Vogue Arabia over a relaxed afternoon chat, Kattan is bubbling over with enthusiasm for the new perfume, which she affectionately describes as one of her “babies”. While the launch may seem fresh to us, it’s been years in the making for Kattan. “I’ve been waiting to share this for over a year, and it’s been in production for more than two years,” she shares. “Having to wait so long kills you inside – I’ve been so excited to share Invite Only with everyone.”
Working with fragrance developer Firmenich and principal perfumer, Ilias Ermenidis, Kattan developed an enticingly rich scent inspired by the allure of a confident woman. A true gourmand, Invite Only pays homage to Kattan’s sweet tooth, with beguiling notes include honey de provence, black cherry, chocolate hazelnut accord, two types of rose, amber, and oud. “There’s the nature print of a certain chocolate spread, there’s cinnamon, honey, and cherries – it’s a very gourmand scent,” describes Kattan. For her, sweeter notes were the obvious choice for a fragrance that she always envisioned to be Kayali’s sexiest scent yet. “I always relate more sensual fragrances to gourmand notes, because they’re mouth-watering, whetting your appetite, and enticing. So for Invite Only, it’s like a gourmand explosion, where we took as many gourmands as possible and punched them into a fragrance.” With a spread of honeyed chocolate and fruit, Kattan wanted Invite Only to feel like the dessert course of a late night dinner with intriguing company. “Dessert is my favorite, partially because I’m such a sweet tooth, but also because dessert is towards the end of the night course, where perhaps you’re feeling a little more intimate and you’re feeling a connection,” she explains.
While the fragrance may sound sweet, Kattan warns that there’s also a little intrigue to darken the blend, in the form of oud – a first time addition for Kayali – tobacco, and the titular amber. “It’s the first time I’ve used oud as a note in our fragrances. It’s a very powerful, bold note,” says Kattan. “We also added tobacco to give it this smoky, boudoir style Parisian club feel. It’s a fragrance that takes someone with a lot of personality to wear, or if you want that boost of confidence, this juice gives you that instant courage.”
For Kattan, Invite Only not only symbolizes a new, sexier feel for Kayali, but her own personal awakening. “This fragrance means a lot to me because it channels my alter-ego,” shares Kattan. Named Monica, for her middle name, Kattan’s alter ego has allowed her to step outside her inhibitions. “She’s the sexier version of myself who is just bold, confident, and more comfortable with my sexuality and sensuality,” explains Kattan. “This kind of confidence has always been something difficult for me to express, because of the culture and my upbringing.” Appearing coltish and playful in the Invite Only campaign, Mona says that she pushed herself over the edge and harnessed her inner Monica to help her get out of her comfort zone – with ample spritzes of Invite Only to help. The fragrance, she says, is very suggestive, but in a way that the wearer controls. “Like it’s my intimate space, a private party, and I don’t have to invite anyone if I don’t want to,” she laughs. “It’s a fragrance you can wear for yourself, or for an audience – but only at your request.”
Away from the camera, Kattan’s inner Monica has also emerged to take control in real time. “She’s super confident. she’s more selfish and bold about it. She’s into herself and making herself happy. Which is a big deal for me because I’ve always been about giving, I put myself last and struggle to prioritize myself,” Kattan explains. “So with Monica, owning your selfishness is something to celebrate.” Raised in a productive, workaholic family, Kattan says that she thought self-love was something that was selfish. “But,” she adds, “if you know how to care for yourself well, it helps you take care of others and you can be a better person, a better sister, a better daughter. Taking time for myself is such a game-changer for me.”
Part of Kattan’s self-care involved immersing herself in the world of fine perfumes, curating her 3,000-plus piece fragrance wardrobe, and swotting up to better understand and formulate for her brand. “I slowed down a lot last year, and that also gave me a renewed focus on Kayali, where I could get to know myself as founder and consider what is my vision, what am I trying to create,” says Kattan. “I did a lot of therapy and I got to really dig in deep, and I feel like when you do that, the creativity can flow. I took some fragrance courses, on the development nitty gritty, but also the history of fragrance, and that gave me the momentum to go from that perfume junkie I’ve always been, to learning the full details and development as part of my growth as a founder.” While she’s happy to tease another big year for 2022 – “we’ve got some incredible plans for Kayali on the way” – for now, Kattan is happy to indulge in her bolder side. “I’ve learnt that you can do what makes you feel happy or sexy or special. Like sometimes in my daily life and in my relationships, I just need to be a Monica.”
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