ELLE Loves: Kayali’s Newest Fragrance Gives ’90s Mall Rat Energy

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a pink bottle of perfume
Courtesy of Kay Ali

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Picture this: It’s 1995. You are 14 years old. 14 years and eight months, to be exact. Yes, you’re the sassy type. You’re cruising through the mall with your two best friends and just called your crush on the pay phone so him and his friends can come meet you and yours. While you wait to meet in the food court, you pop into Victoria Secret’s or Bath and Body Works and douse yourself in body mist. You stop at the candy shop and get a quarter pound of your favorite sweet and sour candy before heading to meet your crush.

That’s what Kayali’s latest sweet scent, Vanilla Candy Rock Sugar, is giving—’90s mall rat energy. “Oh my God, that’s such a good description because I grew up in the ’90s and that’s when I was the biggest mall rat ever,” exclaims Mona Kattan, founder of Kayali, as we chat during lunchtime on Friday. For the gourmand girlies, this scent will satisfy the sweetest of cravings. Candied pears, marshmallow, rocky candy, and bubble gum dance with violet leaves, jasmine, and patchouli for a sweet scent that dries down to a saccharine, smoky vanilla essence. You can’t help but feel like a kid in a candy shop—Kattan admits she worked in her school’s candy store. “I love desserts. I’m a sweet tooth girl. It’s probably my biggest weakness in life, so that’s why I always want to smell really sweet. It just makes me happy,” says Kattan.

mona kattan kay ali campaign launch image for vanilla rock candy


As I spritz the fragrance, I imagine Kattan selling rice krispey treats while smacking on Hubba Bubba bubble gum. “I’m crushing on marshmallow right now—I want to put it in everything,” says Kattan. There are warm, woody notes of sweet tonka bean with the vanilla shining through as the fragrance dries down and becomes more complex. It’s sweet but not childish, rather, nostaligic. “They’re really fun playful notes. We have jelly beans, we have so many fun notes in there,” Kattan says. Vanilla is a scent profile found throughout the Kayali collection and Vanilla Candy Rock Sugar fulfills a trio of this spice. “A lot of people in our community were asking [me] to make something stronger and more long lasting, more intense. So [Vanilla Royale] was the answer to that, like the bougie big sister,” explains Kattan. She describes Vanilla 28 as the “crazy rich auntie,” and Vanilla Candy Rock Sugar rounds out the sisterhood as the “younger, more playful sister.” Vanilla is a nostalgic scent for Kattan, one that makes her feel at ease. “I think it’s related to vanilla cake when you’re a kid and all of us had birthday cake and that smell of vanilla cake to me, just makes you feel happy,” she says.

Shop KayAli’s Vanilla Scents

Vanilla 28

KAYALI Vanilla 28
Credit: Courtesy of KayAli

Vanilla Royale Sugared Patchouli

KAYALI Vanilla Royale Sugared Patchouli
Credit: Sephora

These family moments—birthdays, dinners, and times spent with people you love are the ones that are most precious to Kattan and often inspire her scents. “It’s not a big milestone. It’s not a trip. It’s chilling with people you love and having good food is the best memory. So that’s why I feel like I always want to bottle those memories and wear it and feel that emotion again.”

You can shop Vanilla Candy Rock Sugar beginning today May 2nd at HudaBeauty.com and Sephora.com.

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