"I feel like people's love of fragrance has been reignited," Kayali cofounder Mona Kattan told me over Zoom from her home in Dubai. "Personally, I've always loved fragrances, but I think throughout the pandemic, I've fallen even more in love with them. It's amazing how just lighting different candles throughout the day made me feel like I was in a different environment, even though I was pretty much in my room the whole time."
According to Kattan, this fragrance revival wasn't just happening inside the safety of our homes; it's also been happening in the industry itself. "I feel like the category was so traditional for a very long time. Sure, there were some indie and niche players, but for the most part, I felt the category had become boring and very ignored. Now, though, the category is booming — retailers are taking it more seriously, big influencers are getting involved, Rihanna's launching Fenty perfumes instead of doing the celebrity route she did before, and people are talking about layering fragrances, which is awesome. I love that people are getting excited and educated about it."
It's in this fragrance-obsessed environment that Kattan introduces the newest scent in the Kayali fragrance range: Invite Only Amber 23 (£98), a perfume that was supposed to make its debut two years ago. "The fragrance itself was finalised in 2019, and we were supposed to launch it in 2020, but because of COVID, we had issues with our bottles because the factory shut down. So I've been waiting for this to launch for such a long time, and it's been a struggle, because you just want to share it with the world and see people's reaction — and find out if they'll like it as much as I do."
Perfume-lovers, and Kayali fans, should be very excited for Invite Only Amber, as it's a stunning and incredibly sexy scent. Dark and sensual but with a comforting warmth to it, the fragrance is a decadent gourmand, which means it's a perfume made up of primarily synthetic edible notes (like honey, chocolate, vanilla, or candy). In the case of Invite Only Amber, those yummy notes include black cherry, cinnamon, honey, vanilla, and a hazelnut accord that's meant to smell like a certain chocolate-hazelnut spread we all know and love and eat right out of the jar.
Invite Only Amber isn't just a dessert tray in fragrance form, however. Always looking to create a scent that's truly unique, Kattan ensured the scent also had depth and complexity. This comes in the form of tobacco leaf, "to give you that nice smoky vibe", and natural oud, which marks the first time the brand has used the classic ingredient in one of its perfumes. "I love oud," Kattan said. "I'm Middle Eastern, and it's a big part of Middle Eastern culture, so when I moved to Dubai [from the United States], which was about 20 years ago, I really got more connected with my roots and the Middle Eastern rituals of fragrance. Oud is a big part of that." Kattan is starting subtle when it comes to the brand's foray into oud, however. "It's just a touch of oud in Invite Only, so you may not even recognise it," she explained. "But it really does help with the longevity of the fragrance and gives it that richness and depth and capacity."
Invite Only Amber is special not just because of its mix of notes but also for what it represents — unabashedly embracing one's sensuality. "The fragrance was inspired by one time I was in Paris," Kattan said. "I went to Crazy Horse, the famous cabaret show, and the woman who was entertaining on stage, all eyes were on her, she owned it, and she was just very comfortable in her sensuality, so that's the inspiration for this juice."
As she developed Invite Only, that inspiration behind the scent extended to Kattan herself. "It really inspired me. I was like, 'Why can't I be like that?' I want to be a bad b*tch. I want to be up there entertaining, all eyes on me, and own it, be comfortable with it, whereas I feel like maybe because of my roots, I've never felt very confident embracing my sensuality and sexuality," Kattan explained. "My mom is very traditional; she was always encouraging me to be shy, reserved, soft spoken when it comes to being around men and stuff, where I'm like, 'No, I want to be this bold, courageous, fierce, bad b*tch.'" Invite Only Amber helped Kattan embrace the sensual side of herself, something she hopes it will do for other people. "This fragrance means a lot to me because it channels my alter ego, Monica, who is a little bit more of a badass than I am — a sexier version of myself who is just bold, confident, and more comfortable with my sexuality and sensuality."
The name of the fragrance also reflects the power and sensuality of the scent. "It's a fragrance you can wear for yourself, or for an audience, but you're the person inviting people in because it's very precious and intimate. When you're wearing Invite Only, you get to decide who you invite to experience it."
Kayali Invite Only Amber Eau de Parfum (£98) is available starting 20 Aug. on kayalifragrance.com.