Mona Kattan on the changing landscape of beauty in the UAE
Dubai - How has the pandemic changed the notions of beauty? Social media star and entrepreneur tells us!
The Kattan sisters are credited for changing the course of the beauty industry in the region. Mona Kattan, who commands a robust social media following and recently launched the perfume line Kayali, talks about carving a niche for herself.
How did an investment banker find herself drawn to the world of beauty?
I honestly thought banking was the best career path to becoming successful, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t for me and resigned after a year. Then I started a PR agency together with a friend here in Dubai. That’s where I think my interest in cosmetics and skincare really grew. As for fragrance, I’ve always loved perfume and fragrance since I can remember. My earliest memory was when I was much younger, and my mum would wear this beautiful jasmine perfume, which I love to this day. I used my first paycheck to buy my first fragrance when I was 14 years old and I haven’t stopped collecting fragrances since then. Of course, I love makeup and skincare, but fragrance has always been my thing, and I don’t think that will ever change.
When was that exact moment when you realised that you had a success story in Huda Beauty, given the sheer number of challenges you had to face in the initial stages?
Securing our investors was such a huge milestone for us. There were so many people who overlooked us or didn’t take us seriously because we were women who wanted to start a beauty business. Finding investors who not only believed in our mission, but who were prepared to champion us was an incredibly affirming moment for how far we have come and what we could do in the future. That being said, we’re still learning and growing and innovating with our brands, so the work is not done!
What kind of role did social media play in this success? It wasn’t such a big player when it came to beauty, but you and Huda created a visual language for beauty in the region.
Social media has played such an impactful role in the success of all our brands. Our brands were born first from our blog, then grew up on social media and I don’t know if we’d have had as much global resonance as we do if it wasn’t for our social channels. The fact that we can connect directly with our followers, and ultimately our customers, is so unique to our company.
As an influencer yourself, what do you factor in before posting anything on social media?
The defining factor — and my priority — when it comes to social media is to spread love and radiate good energy. There can be so much hate and bullies on social media, so it’s super important to me that all my posts reflect who I am and what I stand for.
The pandemic has seen the focus of beauty shifting from makeup to skincare. How do you perceive this shift?
I think that the pandemic inspired people all over the world to dig deep and embrace their beauty and self-care routines. And what that looked like for some people is taking care of themselves in their truest form and nurturing their skin as opposed to hiding it with heavy duty makeup. And for some, self-care is in form of feeling beautiful inside out and wearing a fragrance that boosts your mood and I did a lot of that during the pandemic.
You are known as the ‘perfume princess’? What drew you to fragrances and what kind of research did you have to put in before setting up Kayali?
When I was really young, I remember being so impressed with scents and fragrances. I love how fragrances made me feel and how it served as a tool to ignite my confidence, and that’s how the world of fragrances quickly became an obsession. I remember going to stores and being fascinated by the scent of the place and doing my research on fragrance notes. I started collecting perfumes when I was a teenager, that’s all I spent my pay cheque on. I always played with the idea of having my own fragrance brand. So in 2018, after having worked with my sisters on building Huda Beauty, I decided to dive into my passion for fragrance and create my own brand KAYALI.
There was no doubt in my mind that I had to work with the incredible perfume house Firmenich, I love everything they stand for. We truly have such an incredible partnership. They work on sustainably resourced ingredients, which was super important to me and my team.
KAYALI has received widespread recognition in the region. What about the brand has clicked, according to you?
KAYALI was always a way and a means to infuse my Middle Eastern heritage with my love for fragrance and share it with the world, and the notes in almost all our fragrances are a testament to that. I think what has made the brand click is the intentionality about the way we communicate.
Layering, for instance, which has been a big part of the Middle Eastern culture. So for me, it was so natural to bring that element of my culture into how we encourage people to wear fragrances. I also think that KAYALI being a home-grown brand has been extremely blessed in how the regional community has supported and embraced it.
Which is your own favourite scent from KAYALI?
It’s so hard to pick one as I genuinely love and layer every single one of them. If I had to choose just one, I would say Invite Only Amber | 23. Besides it being the only fragrance from our entire collection that we’ve created using Oud oil, it is such an opulent and irresistible combination of rich seductive scents. I’m so obsessed with how it makes me feel fearless and confident. There’s almost a shift in my personality into this bold, unapologetic woman.
Much is said about the bonhomie of the Kattan sisters. When you are not talking beauty, what are the conversations with each other like?
We’re like any other family. One thing we really love to do is go for walks on the beach with Nour and honestly, just do normal stuff when we’re not working. We share podcasts and book recommendations, lessons and life hacks that we’ve learned from the people around us. We help each other grow and be the best versions of ourselves!
How is the idea of beauty and skincare evolving in the Middle East, in your opinion?
Makeup is something that has always been a huge part of beauty in the region and so is perfumery and fragrance. Skincare is something that has grown tremendously, but the biggest thing that I think has really evolved in the last several years is how beauty is now seen as a form of self-care. For me personally, fragrance plays a big role within self-care.
Any three tips you would give to those in beauty business about how to market your products better on social media?
• Listen to your followers. They are your community and are on the receiving end of the contents and products you put out, so I think it is often wise to pause and hear their feedback. It also important to learn how to filter through that and lean on your intuition.
• Create content that’s unique to you. Don’t be afraid to show exactly who you are and what you stand for.
• Trust your gut. More likely than not, your first thought is going to be the one that you feel the best about
What’s next for you?
We’re working on so many different things with KAYALI right now! Some of our products take years to create, but we’re also working on some interesting new formats for fragrance so watch this space!!