Dubai – How has the pandemic changed notions of beauty? Social media star and entrepreneur tells us!
The Kattan sisters are credited with changing the course of the beauty industry in the region. Mona Kattan, who runs a strong social network afterwards and recently launched the Kayali fragrance line, talks about carving out a niche for herself.
How did an investment banker find herself drawn to the world of beauty?
Honestly, I thought banking was the best career path for success, but I quickly realized it wasn’t for me and quit after a year. Then I started a PR agency with a friend here in Dubai. This is where I think my interest in cosmetics and skin care really grew. When it comes to scent, I have always loved perfumes and scents from as far back as I can remember. My first memory goes back to when I was much younger, and my mom wore this wonderful scent of jasmine, which I still love today. I used my first salary to buy my first perfume when I was 14 and I haven’t stopped collecting perfumes since then. Sure, I love makeup and skin care, but scent has always been my thing, and I don’t think that will ever change.
When exactly did you realize you had a success story at Huda Beauty, given the number of challenges you faced in the early stages?
Securing our investors has been an important step for us. There were so many people who ignored 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 were ready to stand up for us was an incredibly positive moment for how far we’ve come and what we could do in the future. That being said, we continue to learn, grow and innovate with our brands, so the work is not done!
What role did social networks play in this success? He wasn’t such a big actor when it comes to beauty, but you and Huda have created a visual language for beauty in the region.
Social media has played such an important role in the success of all of our brands. Our brands were first born from our blog, then grew on social media and I don’t know if we would have had as much global resonance as we do without our social media. The fact that we can connect directly with our subscribers, and ultimately our customers, is so unique to our business.
As an influencer yourself, what do you consider before posting anything on social media?
The defining factor – and my top priority – when it comes to social media is spreading love and radiating good energy. There can be so much hate and bullying on social media, so it’s very important to me that all of my posts reflect who I am and what I represent.
The pandemic has seen the beauty focus shift from makeup to skin care. How do you see this change?
I think the pandemic has inspired people around the world to dig deep and embrace their beauty and personal grooming routines. And what it looked like for some people was to take care of themselves in their truest form and nourish their skin instead of hiding it with tough makeup. And for some, self-care is about feeling beautiful inside out and wearing a scent that uplifts your mood and I did a lot during the pandemic.
Are you known as the “princess of perfumes”? What attracted you to perfumes and what research did you have to do before creating Kayali?
When I was very young I remember being so impressed with scents and scents. I love how perfumes made me feel and how they served as a tool to ignite my self-confidence, and this is how the world of perfumes quickly became an obsession. I remember going to the stores and being fascinated by the smell of the place and doing my research on the scent notes. I started collecting perfumes when I was a teenager, that’s all I spent my paycheck on. I have always played with the idea of having my own brand of perfume. So in 2018, after working with my sisters on building Huda Beauty, I decided to immerse myself in my passion for perfume and create my own brand KAYALI.
There was no doubt in my mind that I had to work with the amazing Firmenich perfume house, I love everything they stand for. We really have an amazing partnership. They work on ingredients from sustainable resources, which was very important to me and my team.
KAYALI has received wide recognition in the region. What about the brand that clicked, in your opinion?
KAYALI has always been a way and a way to imbue my Middle Eastern heritage with my love for perfume and share it with the world, and the notes of almost all of our perfumes bear witness to that. I think what made the brand click was the intentionality of the way we communicate.
Layering, for example, which has been a big part of Middle Eastern culture. So for me it was so natural to incorporate this element of my culture into the way we encourage people to wear perfumes. I also think KAYALI, as a local brand, has been extremely blessed in the way the regional community has supported and embraced it.
What is your favorite KAYALI scent?
It’s so hard to pick one because I really love and layer each one of them. If I had to pick just one, I would say Invite Only Amber | 23. As well as being the only fragrance in our entire collection that we have created with oud oil, it is such an opulent and irresistible combination of rich and alluring scents. I’m so obsessed with how it makes me feel fearless and confident. There is almost a change in my personality in this bold, unapologetic woman.
We talk a lot about the good nature of the Kattan sisters. When you are not talking about beauty, what are the conversations between you like?
We are like any other family. One thing we really love to do is take a walk on the beach with Nour and honestly do normal things when we’re not working. We share podcasts and book recommendations, lessons and life tips we’ve learned from the people around us. We help each other grow and be the best versions of ourselves!
How do you think the idea of beauty and skin care is evolving in the Middle East?
Make-up is something that has always been an integral part of the beauty of the area, just like perfumery and perfume. Skin care is something that has grown tremendously, but the most important thing that I think has really evolved over the past few years is the way beauty is now viewed as a form of personal care. For me personally, scent plays a big role in personal care.
Do you have three tips for beauty professionals to better market your products on social media?
• Listen to your subscribers. They are your community and are the recipients of the content and products you post, so I think it’s often wise to pause and hear their comments. It’s also important to learn to filter through this and to rely 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 instincts. More likely than not, your first thought will be the one you feel best with.
What’s the next step 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 exciting new formats for fragrances, so watch this space!