Nadia and Laila Gohar at Laila’s apartment on the Upper West Side. It’s going to be a long day.
Photo: Andres Kudaki
For many years, Laila Gohar has been at Frieze Art Fair and Fashion‘s pre-Met Gala party, with installations that fall somewhere between canapés and conceptual art: challah thrones, jelly rice cake breasts, and fish-shaped butter sculptures, among others. It’s as if the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington was a caterer.
“When you put my work into these spaces, it’s kind of like an equalizer,” says Leila, 33. “Everyone is equally confused.”
Now the chaos comes home.Laila and her painter sister Nadia, 32, are launching a line of bizarre household items called Garhar world. To launch the collection, they’ll be hosting a rooftop garden party in a hideaway at Rockefeller Center, serving snacks in the shadow of St. Patrick’s Cathedral: trimmed towers of boiled potatoes and daikon radishes, alternately lined with carnations; long horses Woven ropes of zurilla cheese, waiting to be snipped by weathered iron shears; yard puffs like party submarines; and octopus candlesticks for cupping instead of votives. (Negotiations are underway to open a Gohar World store in The Rocks later this year, so the venue.)
Like Laila’s food, Gohar World’s aesthetic emphasizes artisan quality and craftsmanship, but is somewhere in between comical—what funny again-Ok? Egg Candlesticks are available for just $298. A pair of Egyptian linen bibs with ribbons for $135. A miniature lace shawl — they call it a hat — costs $42 a tomato.
Like the sisters – Nadia to the party in a sequined Chanel suit, Laila in a pink satin Prada miniskirt cut low back to reveal a (temporary) bean-shaped GOHAR tattoo – the items exuded a provocation A sense of playful luxury. “Most things, you know, you don’t absolutely need,” Nadia admits. “But it can be added to your desk.” Or your people: A beaded necklace resembling chicken feet (sold out) or a satin satchel for baguettes. “There needs to be a sense of humor,” Laila said. “Otherwise, it’s a bit overwhelming. If something is too chic for me, it really makes me nervous.” Fashion precedes conversation; Gohar World needs it. “I mean, if you take our baguette to the farmers market and you have ribbons all over your arms,” Laila said, “people would love it, What’s the matter with you?“
The Gohar spread provided the same experience and atmosphere as lighthearted; when Laila made food for her friend Daphne Javich’s baby shower, she was served with carrots that were still clumpy. “People don’t know if it can be eaten,” Javitch told me. “I have participated in similar events, This is beautiful but I’m wearing heels – do I need to peel a hard boiled egg? But I love this about her because I can get a peeled hard boiled egg in any old place. There are so few quirks left. She had this indulgent look, as if none of it mattered. “
The Gohars grew up in Cairo, where their father — a journalist, photographer and creative chef, just Gohar — would invite local dignitaries to dinner with fishmongers. “He rose to fame because he didn’t do anything twice,” Nadia said. “It’s always a little rough, but in a delicious way,” says Leila. “Once he made a fish tank out of strawberries. I remember Nadia and my mom not eating it. He and I were like, Mmmm, yummy, yummy. I definitely took a page out of his book. “
Both Laila and Nadia went to college in the US. Nadia studies Art, Leila International Relations. “I’ve always been interested in food,” Laila said. “But I thought I needed to do something smarter.” But when she moved to New York, she started testing recipes for cooking sites and started making esoteric snacks for her stylish and well-connected friends. Snacks became a business.
On the rooftop, a mix of fashion, design and hospitality genres (Leila’s boyfriend is restaurateur Ignacio Matos), they all do well, sipping mezcal margaritas. Jenna LyonsThe former president of J.Crew, dressed in a three-piece suit and no shirt, gravitated to a lace tablecloth; she grew up in California, “I’ve never seen a tablecloth,” she says. Laila replied that in Cairo they even have one for their roll of toilet paper. As night fell, ballroom MC Sister Nancy performed with a microphone, and DJ Mark Ronson and Cobra showed up, wearing trucker hats, to take pictures of cake slices and party attendees in sequence.
It had the feel of a chaotic dinner party; Sister Nancy hosted a round of “Happy Birthday, Gauhar.” At night, the tables are covered with Gohar World shirts and tablecloths – and collars – littered with half-eaten sandwiches, knives with pastry cream and small sausage pieces, and music can be heard beating seven planes landing on the street superior. After midnight, the police showed up. Laila was unmoved. “I think it’s better for a party to end on a high note,” she told me, “better than failure.”