Every scent evokes an emotion. In Scent Stories, TZR asks tastemakers, celebrities, and industry insiders to share the stories behind the smells of their past and present.
For Mona Kattan, the art of scent arrangement is just that. Like painting a portrait, she experiments with layering notes, contrasting, complementing, all to evoke a specific feeling — every fragrance she wears or creates must be distinctly evocative, telling a complete narrative from the first burst of top notes down to the base scents that anchor them. In many ways, Kattan’s own line of best-selling perfumes, Kayali Fragrances, is a birthright. “Every Kayali juice I create has a link to my heritage,” Kattan explains to TZR from her home in the heart of Dubai’s glittering Palm Island.
Indeed, every aspect of her wildly popular range — from the layer-able scents themselves to the gleaming jewel cap on each bottle is an homage to rich, vibrant Middle Eastern culture. Even the fact that Kattan routinely collaborates with her sister, beauty industry titan Huda Kattan, is a testament to that tight-knit cultural foundation. Naturally, their combined abilities have produced some of the most influential beauty moments (and products) of the past few years.
The Kattan women create from a place of genuine passion. Nearly three million followers know firsthand just how expansive Kattan’s personal fragrance library is. In between sweet selfies with her new husband and glamorous ‘fit checks’, Kattan produces plenty of content about the massive display cases of perfumes, oils, and assorted fragrances she’s been collecting since age 14. When she moved to Dubai, the interest turned into a full-fledged obsession. “I was discovering so many rituals around layering and different notes, and that’s when I really understood that perfume isn’t just perfume — it’s so much more,” Kattan says. “From there I told myself if I ever have an opportunity to start something for myself and completely out of passion, it would be a fragrance brand.”
With the release of her brand Kayali’s latest scent, Lovefest Burning Cherry 48, Kattan settles even deeper into her role as the fragrance authority for an entire generation.
Ahead, get to know Mona Kattan through the scents that have helped shape her passion.
The Scent Of Freedom
“During lockdown, I just had this craving for escape — a place, either physical or not where people can get together and feel free. Our latest Kayali baby, Lovefest Burning Cherry 48, instantly took me to a beautiful and seductive escape. It reminds me of a big celebration or a festival. I chose to focus on the cherry note as the main ingredient, but I wanted to add a twist and make it more smoky, woody, and captivating. For me, the burning scent signifies letting go and release. The addition of Palo Santo and Guaiac wood made this the euphoric scent I was craving. Sensual and captivating, this fragrance is a celebration of love, hope and freedom. If Burning Cherry was a person, this person would be someone free-spirited, who lives and loves fearlessly.”
The Scent(s) Of Passion
“When I create scents, I take inspiration from things I’ve loved throughout my life. I want to create a mood, so I think, ‘what scent made me feel this way?’ [and] I return to that memory and start from there. It all stems from memories of emotions, which is so important when it comes to fragrances. It has both a pro and a con, though, because my perception of how something smells and how it makes me feel may be extremely different from another person’s. Fragrance is the most subjective product because it’s based on our memories. It’s very complicated, but that’s what makes it so magical. I’ve always been passionate about fragrance and have a sensitive nose, so does my entire family.”
The Scent Of Love
“Love can take on a variety of forms, so this is a tough one. If I had to pick one note, it would be musk. From Kayali, it would be our Musk 12 juice. There’s also something so beautifully romantic about Armani Privé’s Vert Malachite. If you want real love, layer those two together and you have a winner. I also love layering our Musk 12 juice with Vanilla 28 on a date night — so sweet and sensual. I have a very important project in the works for Kayali coming out next year that is exactly love in a bottle.”
The Scent of Family
“My love for fragrance actually developed from my mother. My very first fragrance memory was from when I was a child and my mom use to wear a non-branded jasmine perfume. It wasn’t a particular brand. It was just in a bottle with no label, but it was just a beautiful, natural, jasmine scent. That’s where my love for jasmine started, and it was an inspiration for Kayali’s Deja Vu White Flower 57. I connect this fragrance to my childhood and entire family. It was my inspiration behind that scent and every time I spray it on, I feel transported to so many memories.”
The Scent of Success
“Success smells like patchouli to me. It’s such a strong and sexy note. I really like chypre fragrances and those bergamot, patchouli, floral, oakmoss, animalistic notes. I feel like a successful person, whether it’s a man or a woman, suits that chypre profile. From my collection, it would be our very own Kayali Elixir 11. It isn’t a chypre, but it has a lot of patchouli and floral notes. Elixir smells so powerful to me and makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. Another classic chypre fragrance would be Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, which smells like pure elegance.”
The Scent Of Power
“It really depends on the day and the mood I am in, which is why fragrance is so special! A single spray can transform my energy and make me feel fresh and empowered. I’d have to pick Kayali Elixir 11 for this one, too. It’s really bold, sexy, and powerful, and it makes me feel the same. I would suggest layering it with Tom Ford Tuscan Leather to take it even further. You’ll be amazed at how well these two fragrances mix together and what a powerful scent they make.”
The Scent of Heritage
“Since it is so ingrained in my culture and background, I would say oud, and generally layering fragrance as a practice. This immediately brings to mind Hind Al Oud Sheikh A. It literally smells like Arab royalty. It’s a deep, addictive scent with a blend of spicy notes and a deep scent of agarwood. I also love Christian Dior’s Oud Ispahan — this fragrance is insanely delicious and long-lasting. Whenever I smell Oud Ispahan, I immediately think of a princess or prince. I absolutely love layering it and so does my husband, Hassan.
Every Kayali juice I create has a link to my heritage. Beyond the scents themselves, every Kayali fragrance is made for layering and has a strong foundation in Middle Eastern culture and heritage. The bottles as well are inspired by many of the Middle Eastern fragrances I saw when I moved here — the jeweled, diamond-like design makes the wearer of the fragrance feel so special and royal.”
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