You might be hard pressed to find another woman in the Middle East quite so enamoured with perfumes. Owning no less than 1,500 bottles, Mona Kattan is the ultimate aficionado – which is precisely why her fragrance line Kayali seduced us all quite so instantly when it burst onto the scene to much fanfare in 2018.
But where did this love story with scent begin, and where has it taken her over the years? We asked her to chart her fabulous life in perfumes…
Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: What’s your very first memory of fragrance?
Mona Kattan: “When I was younger, my mum 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 associate it with her every time I smell jasmine.”
HBA: The first perfume you ever owned?
MK: “I’ve been wearing Watch by M. Micallef for about 15 years now. I was gifted it for my 19th birthday and 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 at university just to afford it… that’s how committed I was!”
HBA: From your 1,500 perfumes in your temperature-controlled fragrance closet, which three would you save in a fire?
MK: “Watch by M. Micallef as it has such sentimental value for me. Chanel No.5 will always be one of my favourites. It’s such a classic and evokes a strong sense of femininity. And finally, our new fragrance which will be launching this month called Kayali Déjà vu White Flower. It’s incredibly alluring and reminds me of a really exciting time in my life. It also took us such a long time to finalise so it reminds me of all the hard work [fragrance company] Firmenich and our team put in.”
HBA: What’s the story about this drop of Kayali?
MK: “Honestly, déjà vu was always one of my favourite ways to describe smelling a fragrance, because for me, fragrance really invokes such strong memories. I feel like every time I smell a new one it’s such a beautiful experience. It’s about memory transportation; that’s why I felt really strongly about the name and our whole team loved it because we all felt like we related to the experience of déjà vu when it came to fragrance.”
HBA: What perfume did you wear to your graduation?
MK: “A combination of Watch by M. Micallef, YSL Cinema and Escada Magnetism.”
HBA: How about on a memorable first date?
MK: “Definitely Coco Mademoiselle. I went on my first date when I was 18 and first moved to Dubai and that was my go-to at the time.”
HBA: And during your school days?
MK: “There were several that I wore back then, but some of my favourites that I remember were Ô Oui by Lancôme, Curve by Elizabeth Arden and Love Spell by Victoria’s Secret.”
HBA: When you felt like you’d hit a career high?
MK: “Our Kayali Elixir 11. It was over the summer of 2017, we were finally seeing a lot of interest in the brand and we confirmed our investors. We hadn’t yet released it, but it was something that I wore so much that summer and makes me think of the excitement around that milestone in my career.”
HBA: On the holiday of dreams?
MK: “Lancaster’s Sole di Capri is my ultimate holiday fragrance. It smells like a beach vacation and the last time I wore it, I was in Mexico.”
From Harper's BAZAAR Arabia's December 2019 Issue