Laila Aziz slays with her vibrant collection at Arab Fashion Week
Recognised as one among the world's five most important fashion events, the Arab Fashion Week returned this year for its ninth edition to host more than 40 regional and international labels. Held at 1422, the designer platform at City Walk Dubai from October 9 to 14, the annual event saw a new generation of designers set the ramp on fire with their latest collections across fashion shows, pop-ups and presentations.
Celebrating her Summer-Spring collection 2020, was Los Angeles-based Moroccan designer Laila Aziz, who wowed the crowd at the Kayat Couture show with not only the vibrancy of colours in her collection but also with her intricate sequins, cuts, bead work and designs that made the models sizzle on the ramp.
A qualified lawyer, Laila made her debut in the fashion industry a decade ago after getting married. Although she had the talent, skill and passion for fashion, her journey was an uphill battle as no one supported it at home.
Growing up, she would draw and sketch clothes on models. Speaking about her in-built fashion sense from a young age, Laila said: "Without really knowing what a fashion designer was, I would try using different designs and patterns on my clothes. It came so naturally to me that my parents thought it was just a hobby, but somehow I never got bored of it."
"I have been designing my whole life for myself. But my mother was against me studying fashion and taking it up as a full time career and told me in no uncertain terms to 'finish your studies in law and then maybe you can take up fashion as a hobby,'" she added.
Laila's parents were more focused on her education, and art in any form, especially fashion, was never something they saw as a "serious career."
Originally from Morocco, but born and raised in Holland, Laila finished her degree in law and got married to Nadir Khayat, more popularly known by his stage name RedOne, a Moroccan record producer, singer, songwriter and record executive, who has worked with high-profile recording artists such as Lady Gaga, Akon, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira and Mariah Carey, among many others.
"After getting married, I moved to New York and I had time to think and explore my options in terms of having a career. This is when I decided to pursue my passion and studied fashion for a year and started my career just like a stylist. But the whole idea about starting my own brand actually came due to a small incident that took place at one of the award functions where my husband was being awarded," Laila said.
RedOne was nominated for 10 Grammys and he won three. During one of the awards night in 2008, where she was present wearing a self-styled dress, it garnered a lot of attention not only from the media, but also other celebrities who asked her to design similar dresses for them.
The appreciation Laila received that night was so overwhelming and encouraging that she decided to build up her own brand. "I started with creating a small collection initially, but it was only from 2013 that I launched my own collections formally twice a year and then there was no looking back."
Starting from scratch
Laila loves to work hard and see her products shape up into what she has always imagined it to be. "I like to start styling from scratch, which is why I buy plain fabric and do all the beadings and sequins my way as I am also very fond of jewellery - my collection always has some or the other form of gems, crystals etc., used on them."
Laila who visits the UAE thrice a year, said: "Although inspiration for my designs has been from all the places I have been to and all the people I've met, I can't deny that there is something special about my UAE connection and collection due to the amazing multi-culturalism that exists here."
She added: "It's a blessing to be able to experience the UAE and it has given an excellent exposure to my collection, which is inspired by people of different nationalities, wearing different traditional and modern styles. Also not to forget my Moroccan background that has inspired me to use vibrant colours and styles and sequences in my designs."
Talking about her collection at the Arab Fashion Week, Laila said it combined unique style and materials to appeal to the modern-day fashionable woman.
"We are women and our hormones play a big role in our life. Which is why we may want to wear a flowy dress one day and the next day, suddenly we may want to go for a short skirt. That is why I give different cuts to my dresses and jackets."
Giving out her fashion philosophy, Laila said one should wear whatever makes one feel comfortable and confident. "I don't like to limit my style to traditional or modern designs because women are vivacious and I feel we cannot contain or limit their personality only to a particular style. Also I travel extensively, which is why my collection is inspired by the people I meet and the countries I visit as I translate my experience into my collection. This is why you will see a mix of a lot of different colours and different kinds of dresses - long and short - in my collection, as this helps me cater to a wide variety of women worldwide. Every piece, I feel, should speak for itself," she said.
Music in her designs
Her husband RedOne, who was present by her side at the Kayat couture show, also gave his music for her show. Calling her husband her ultimate cheerleader, Laila said: "My husband is always involved in whatever shows I do and is almost the backbone of my shows. He motivates and encourages me at my shows. He is always present backstage with me trying to see if everything is going well."
Talking about the special song that was used as part of the choreography at the fashion show, Laila said: "The song played at my show was one of the first songs my husband made with Lady Gaga. I was with them when they created this song which is why I find it very special. The funny part is I did not even have a fashion line when this song was composed 10 years ago and since my Dubai show is always special, we decided to play our special song here."
UAE offers the best
Calling the UAE a breeding ground for creative talent, Laila, who visits the UAE often, said: "The UAE offers the best of the best to anyone who is creative and likes to innovate. This country plays a huge part in the fashion world and the best designers of the world make special collections especially for the UAE because of its acceptance and the access it gives us to a wide variety of audiences.
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