There is style that is “put on” and there is style that is real, like Laila’s, which when encountered, makes you feel enhanced and not discouraged. Her honesty is palpable from the inside out. She is unencumbered in her confessions, ranging from secretly loving to “intervene” in people’s lives through the way she dresses (like when she adds Mouse ears to a man’s shetland sweater and lace skirt) to her guilt over living in NYC while the people from her city of origin, Cairo, are fighting for freedom and “something bigger than themselves.”
Laila claims proudly that she is a walking contradiction, wearing an oversized knitted hoodie on the days that she wants to hide, and pairing it with a bold architectural Margiela skirt, tights whose legs are each a different loud color and zebra striped DM’s that she loves for how they make her feet look big. Elegantly swimming in gigantic army fighter overalls, with a random rhinestone necklace of a bird and her favorite Jeremy Scott sneakers with massive wings, being provocative, having a sense of humor and always expressing herself fully in the moment, Laila freely acts on her own notions. “Trends are for people who don’t have their own ideas,” she says, and this goes for everything in Laila’s life and style, from the cleverness with which she wears a wreath on her head with a classic trench coat and blue velvet pants, to her idiosyncratic decision to attend college in Miami because it was unfamiliar and she didn’t know a soul. This is a notably daring move in Laila’s quest for selfhood, given her global and worldy childhood, including a heritage that stems back to the Ottoman Empire.
In jean cut offs with a gold, patterned, 18c. warrior jacket that most would hang on a wall, pushing her own boundaries comes enviably naturally to Laila. Living in Egypt, “you were meant to look a certain way,” she states, but her parents had the extraordinary sense to give her license to be different and feel comfortable with disapproval. Taking the risk of being a fish out of water in Miami proved worthwhile for her, when she discovered her love for cooking when first encountering the commercialization of American food. What you put in your body, Laila came to understand, has as much to do who you are as the detail of layering indigenous coats and wraps over everything, like she does so lavishly. But life is “too good not to document,” Laila declares, and writing about food and how it connects her to people has become her most consuming infatuation. And when she is at her happiest, Laila says, she is her most flamboyant in both how she eats and how she dresses, “food is what you nourish your soul and body with and clothes are nourishment for your eyes.”
Laila’s work can be seen here on her site.
Video Edited by Natasha Shumny.