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This Is How Iranian Singer-Songwriter Layla Kardan Is Pushing Boundaries

The Dubai-based Iranian singer Layla Kardan on her style and creative flow.

Layla Kardan, Vogue Arabia Nov 2020

Layla Kardan in an Alexandre Vauthier dress. Photography: Maria Kordzadze

Living in Dubai, Iranian singer-songwriter Layla Kardan considers herself a global citizen with a mission to break regional stereotypes and push boundaries. Here she talks us through her journey.

Switching Lanes

The artist stepped away from a decade-long corporate career to fulfill her artistic goals. “I went against social expectations – and my family’s too – to independently establish myself as a performer and a recording artist in the region.” While the road has not been easy, she has never looked back. The promising talent performed for Chanel at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and landed the opportunity to open for Halsey earlier this year in Miami. “My music career started with a burning desire to perform,” says Kardan. “I grew up dancing and performing in theater productions, but never thought I would pursue a career in music. I decided one day that unless I went after my dream of being an artist, I would never be content and I would end up regretting it later in life – this is something I couldn’t accept.”

Soulful Sounds

On Kardan’s new four-song EP, Abscission, the smooth vocals are an ode to the suppressed woman trying to be heard, seen, and true to who she is. “The process of abscission in plants and animals happens when the organism no longer needs a certain part, like a tree shedding its leaves. It’s like a eulogy for a past relationship where I felt contained and finally got to a point where I shed myself of the affliction,” Kardan shares. Timed with the last days of summer, her sultry new single, “You,” explores Kardan’s pain, desires, and growth through her lyrics.

Layla Kardan

On stage at Palazzo Versace, wearing House of Cb.

Studio Sessions

Kardan built a studio in her home to continue recording during the pandemic. “It was daunting since I haven’t recorded in such a long time and performing live is a different beast, but I absolutely loved it. It’s important to get into that zone and be around producers and the process of making music,” she says. Her ability to seduce people with her craft starts with a story. “I like to write a poem about a situation and then refine the message with a melody, and finally add the beat to it. Sometimes I’ll listen to a beat and improvise a melody, throw away some lyrics and build on that,” she shares of her creative flow. While R&B shapes her sound, she’s beginning to explore psychedelic pop-rock. “I have started writing new songs and I feel that this new project will be heavily influenced by this genre.”

Memory Lane

“I fell in love with music when I watched The Jungle Book for the first time. I must have been two years old,” Kardan reminisces. Meanwhile, dancing classical ballet from the age of four helped her develop an ear for music. “Whenever I listen to Mozart, I feel nostalgic,”she continues.“I love the way instruments with different melodic parts and rhythms come together to create a beautiful and unified sound. I am not a trained musician, so whatever I knew was a natural skill that I needed to refine,” she explains. “I had to learn fast to be able to keep up with the world-class musicians and producers I was working with early in the game. There was so much to learn, but I have to say that it came quite naturally as I was completely in my flow.”

Layla Kardan, Vogue Arabia Nov 2020

In a Rotate dress and Gucci headscarf.

Hidden Gems

Hiking in nature, swimming in the ocean, and having a two-hour massage followed by major pampering is how Kardan describes her perfect day off. When she’s not in the studio, she spends time at the beach. She heads to The Maine Land Brasserie in Business Bay for a bite to eat, 3Fils when she’s craving Asian fusion, and Indochine for a night out. “I also love going to this Ethopian club in Deira, which has the most amazing Ethopian singers and dancers – it’s a cultural experience,” she adds.

Kardan's Saint Laurent shoes; Christian Louboutin bag; Handmade Sadaf Maghsoudlou earrings

Kardan’s Saint Laurent shoes; Christian Louboutin bag; Handmade Sadaf Maghsoudlou earrings

Center Stage

Sitting cross-legged on her couch, wearing a pair of Anomalouss boyfriend-cut jeans and an oversized white Gucci shirt, Kardan showcases her chameleonic ability to switch from edgy everyday looks to her stage-ready persona. “I am quite glamorous and elegant with my style on stage; it also depends on where I am performing,”she explains. Her closet of Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Nanushka, and Alexandre Vauthier pieces share space with designs from Arwa Al Banawi, Mrs. Keepa, and Kristina Fidelskaya. Kardan’s eye for luxury doesn’t stop at her wardrobe – her grandmother’s heirloom jewels, like a diamond necklace and a rare ruby ring set in gold, are the cherries on the cake.

Read Next: Why You Need to Watch This Beirut Film By Cate Blanchett and Nadine Labaki

Photography: Anastasiia Sydorchenko, Michel Takla, Maria Kordzadze.

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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