If Instagram existed in the '90s, there would have been digital evidence I can conveniently look back — and probably cringe — at how my sense of fashion evolved as instantaneously as my taste in music did. Back in my high school days, when rock (Guns 'N' Roses) and (Vanilla Ice) rap fought for radio wave dominance, it was glaringly obvious that my love for both reflected how I dressed.
They say fashion and music go hand-in-hand, and they always will — very intertwined. Lady Gaga unequivocally put it as "the artist's job to create imagery that matches the music." Such musical imagery radiated other-worldly and exceptionally well by one of the Middle East's rising music and fashion icons: Layla Kardan.
I had the tremendous honor of interviewing Dubai-based Australian jazz singer Layla, who is making a name for herself and is taking the music scene by storm. She echoes what Lady Gaga said about the fusion of music and fashion. "Both industries influence each other. I think since music and fashion are very progressive industries, they rely on each other. Fashion houses use artists as muse and the artists need designers to help them convey their message aesthetically."
Having been influenced by an array of elements of glam — predominantly the '50s fashion and music — Layla claims she is "not always consistent" as a result and prefers "to be different and experimental."
"Experimental" rang a familiar tune in my ear — a topic I consider empirically true whether in music or fashion sense. Whenever I wear formal shoes, I catch myself speaking rather formally. I am constantly intrigued by the power of clothes and their effect on behavior and mood — vice versa. Either way, Layla shares the same sentiments.
I love glam!
"I feel I am affected by the colors I choose to wear as I believe they can affect your body's energy centers/chakras. But also when I am feeling low but need to perform, I put on a fabulous outfit and that can instantly lift my mood."
Raf Simons and ASAP Rocky make her list of inspirations in the way they carry fashion and music together. "I think Pharell and Rihanna have really powered to the top in bringing fashion and music together. But my biggest inspiration is Solange — musically, artistically and fashionwise she's my biggest inspiration."
I eluded to the fact that the Queen of Pop has influenced eras transcendentally whether male or female. Almost any modern singer has her fingerprint stamped either on their craft or as a person. "Yes absolutely. She's a legend and an icon, full stop. I also respect her for her drive, determination and strong voice. She's everything," Layla concurred.
Like Madonna, recognition is no stranger to Layla. Receiving the Esquire Music Award of the Year certainly tops the list. She recalls, "Teyana Taylor had won it the year before me so that was huge for me!" Layla's sense of gratitude was evident — a must-have must-keep trait to become a balanced, level-headed and successful singer. "[Plus] Esquire has supported me from day one of my music journeys, and for that, I am forever grateful."
Layla uses her platform to create awareness on certain issues. Love, freedom and truth are her music's core messages. If she would be granted one super-power though, eliminating gender inequality is utmost — a topic close to her heart. "It will mean progress within cultures and across so many different industries," she adds. Having been around the world, perhaps she has witnessed it to be prevalent. The singer often feels she's "from everywhere and nowhere." "I am a Citizen of the World. I can adapt to wherever I am and have an appreciation for all people and cultures. Though borders exist in today's world, I consider the entire world my home in which I respect and cherish and try my best to be tolerant towards others and considerate of the environment."
Believe in yourself
Quite a handful of memories worth sharing over a cup of coffee strutting down memory lane. Performing in the Marina Bay Gardens in Singapore for Chanel's annual event was an incredible and unforgettable experience for Layla. One embarrassing moment caught my undivided attention. "I choked on a peanut once during a performance. I had eaten a few ten minutes before my performance which was a big mistake! My trumpet player had to do a 5-minute solo till I recovered."
Layla wraps it up with this advice. "Believe in yourself. People will always try to pour their own insecurities on to you. It's a difficult road. Be persistent and stay true to who you are, no matter what temptations are presented. Keep a handful of trusted people who can give you feedback and critique your work and then don't listen to the rest, they will just confuse you."
If I would describe fashion in one word and music in two, it would be this: Elegance meets Harmony and Life. This statement best describes Layla's journey so far.Follow Layla Kardan: