"When I got my first job at 14 years old, the first thing I spent my paycheck on was two bottles of perfume," recalls Mona Kattan, the global president of Huda Beauty — the popular namesake cosmetics line started by her sister — and the co-founder of Kayali Fragrance. Kayali launched in November of 2018 as a sub-brand of Huda Beauty, and while her sister's primary interest is cosmetics, Kattan feels a deeper connection to fragrance.
"Perfume is more for yourself, where I think in a social-media driven world makeup is not always something you do for yourself — maybe it's for that selfie you're about to take," she says. "With perfume, it's intimate and for people who want to take the time to change their mood; there's more of a self-focus." Kattan says she loves wearing perfume to bed.
The cosmetics industry has seen a rising tide of sub-beauty brands of late: Tarte debuted its spinoff Sugar Rush range in February; Glossier expanded its footprint via a pigment- and glitter-laden new brand called Glossier Play in March. These sub-brands are no doubt born from the need to reach new consumers and draw in demographics not already being captured by the companies' existing products and messaging — while still capitalizing on any existing brand equity.
Despite sharing a parent company, Kattan notes that there is barely any overlap between Kayali and Huda Beauty when it comes to the specific teams involved. "We kind of had to start from scratch," Kattan recalls. "We had to create a completely different team for product development and marketing, but had some overlap with the finance team and our supply chain team." The packaging is also different for fragrance and cosmetics, which was another area where Kattan and her team had to do their research. "One of the biggest pros of being a sub-brand was entering the market with trust — if someone has bought Huda Beauty, they know we're giving them high-quality ingredients," Kattan explains. "Also, because of social media, entry into market is so much easier."
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Kayali launched with support from the Huda Beauty Instagram page, which currently has more than 37 million followers. "Ultimately the decision to make Kayali a separate brand came from not wanting to dilute the value of the brand of Huda Beauty," Kattan notes. "On top of that, it would cause some restrictions for the brand we wanted to create in terms of packaging, identity, the marketing and everything around it ... even in terms of retailing because we have exclusivity for Huda Beauty in different parts of the world and we wanted to have the flexibility."
Plus, fragrance didn't seem like an obvious fit for the Huda Beauty customer. "Fragrance isn't Huda's passion," Kattan says. "Her passions are color cosmetics and skin care, and these are things that she knows a great deal about. That's why she wanted me to take the lead on Kayali — to be the face of the brand and also be the founder from the creative side. It's interesting for me to take more of a front-facing position after being behind the scenes."
The name "Kayali" actually means "my imagination" in Arabic, and the brand was first launched by the Kattan sisters to share Middle Eastern culture with the west. Their debut collection of four fragrances was designed to help educate customers about layering fragrance, something that has been done for hundreds of years in Arabic culture. The four scents are Elixir | 11, made with red apple and Rose de Mai Absolute; Citrus | 08, with notes of pink grapefruit and bergamot; Musk | 12, which features lotus flower and jasmine; and Vanilla | 28, made with musk and brown sugar.
Kayali perfumes are made in France at Firmenich, one of the world's top fragrance and flavor companies. Because of the high-quality ingredients, the price point for a bottle of Kayali perfume is $118, while Huda Beauty cosmetics are priced a bit more accessibly — between $16-$65.
Whereas Huda Beauty's rise came after Huda gained popularity on YouTube, Mona Kattan is now working on launching her own YouTube channel to create fragrance, makeup and lifestyle content and continue to share her knowledge about the products as a means of furthering the perfume brand. "I want to start educating people on fragrance and my own experience with fragrance," she says. "Huda's not really interested in creating content specifically for fragrance. She's always been about authenticity, and if it's not something she authentically wants to educate people about, we don't want to force it."
The brand is working on a few new products that will launch in the second half of 2019. The overall goal? To build out Kayali to mirror the brand equity that Huda Beauty already has — not just by selling products, but also by creating an authentic and complete experience for the consumer.
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