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Interview: Layla Kardan

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Layla Kardan is an award-winning musician based in the Middle East, who has collaborated with Christian Louboutin and worked on campaigns for YSL, Louis Vuitton and Nars to name but a few. I spoke with Layla about being a woman in the Middle East, working with world-famous designers and the women who inspire her. 

Image courtesy of Quite Great Music PR

 

Getting into the industry

Based in Dubai, Layla's career has really started to take off in the past few years with her new album Saved being released back in November. But how did she get into music?  

“I started singing full time three years ago, performing on the Dubai live music circuit, letting go of my fear to bite the bullet and pursue my dream of singing and creating and performing on stage. I worked hard and performed at as many events as possible until I got more and more comfortable and better at my craft,” she says.

This led to her getting increased press coverage in prestigious Middle Eastern fashion magazines: “I started to get picked up for feature stories by big magazines like Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and Vogue Arabia, and that catapulted me into performing at all the big fashion events for Dior, Chanel, Christian Louboutin and Tory Burch," she says. "Performing at these events gave me exposure and allowed me to prepare financially to self-fund my album and all the assets around it.

“I launched the album on the 30th November 2018 on all major digital platforms and it got picked up by Emirates Airline as an album, with two of the songs being used for take-off and landing songs. I am super grateful for all of the support I have had locally without being under the umbrella of a label.”

Image courtesy of Quite Great Music PR 

 

A love for fashion

Although her work is predominately within the music industry, Layla also has a huge love for the fashion industry: “I see fashion as another way to express and communicate creatively your inner world," she says. "I love beautiful fabrics and structures and I really believe that with an outfit you can transform your mood and get into character, which is especially important in front of the camera or on stage.”

Layla had the chance to collaborate with Christian Louboutin, possibly the most famous shoe designer in the world. She tells me about working with the legendary craftsman: “It was a dream come true. Not only was it amazing to receive the call to ask to collaborate and fly to Paris to shoot something so beautiful, but meeting him and learning just how down to Earth and incredibly talented he is.”

He’s a charming visionary who so beautifully marries creative ideas and concepts with production to make you feel like a sexy, beautiful, bold woman in his shoes and his accessories. I learnt so much more about him and the brand after collaborating and I now have even more respect than before.”

As someone who is clearly very passionate about fashion and the clothes that she wears, I ask Layla to tell me some Middle Eastern designers that we should know about in the UK. She says: “An incredible young Saudi Arabian designer based in Dubai called Arwa Al Banawi. I l[also] love the designs of Lama Jouni and you can always see me wearing pieces by Mrs Keepa and Daneh Designs. Each of them has an identifiable style. All super edgy and bold and just so fabulous to wear.”

 

Image courtesy of Quite Great Music PR 

 

Being a role model & female empowerment

When asked whether she feels pressure to be a role model for young girls, especially in the Middle East where she is based, she says: “Absolutely. I also need to be careful of the messaging I put out there, not forgetting that the society here is still more conservative than the West.”

She continues: “I want young women to feel that they can too go up against the conventions and expectations of society to follow their dreams and be true to their inner voice, whether it’s music or fashion or the visual arts.”

Layla feels it’s incredibly important to get a feeling of female empowerment across in both her lyrics and her music videos. The music video for her single Goddess was a homage to woman finally being able to drive in Saudi Arabia: “I feel there is a rise toward gender equality in the region and it’s important that these messages are reiterated in our music and our messaging. We still have a long way to come here and so it’s more than important, it’s imperative.”

Musically, Layla looks to female powerhouses Nina Simone and Sade for inspiration, which is very evident through her soulful jazz music. In terms of other women who inspire her, Layla finds motivation from women from all walks of life: My biggest inspirations are Queen Rania of Jordan, my sisters and the women I have around me as friends and confidants – I am blessed for them all."

Finally, I ask Layla for the advice she would have wanted to receive when she was a teenager wanting to break into the music industry: “Be persistent, be brave and believe in yourself. No matter the fear and insecurity people try to instil in you, go forward with full conviction and dedication and the universe will conspire."

 

 

Layla Kardan's album Saved is available now on Spotify & Apple Music. 

Lead Image courtesy of Quite Great Music PR  




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