Nadia and Laila Gohar in Layla’s apartment on the Upper West Side. It will be a long day.
Photo: Andres Kodaki
For several years, Laila Gohar has been delighting and unnerving guests at things like Frieze Art Gallery and Vogue magazineA pre-Met Gala party with fixtures that fall somewhere between finger food and conceptual art: shilling thrones, jelly mochi breasts, and fish-shaped butter sculptures, among others. It’s as if the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington had a side hustle as a caterer.
“When you put my work in these spaces, it’s kind of like an equalizer,” says Laila, 33. “Everyone is equally confused.”
Now the confusion comes home. Layla and her painter sister Nadia, 32, present a collection of exotic household items called Essence world. To launch the group, they held a rooftop garden party in a hidden part of Rockefeller Center, with buffet snacks in the shade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral: topiary spiers of boiled potatoes and haqori kale, alternating with layers of carnations; long ropes braided from mozzarella waiting for the scissors by wind-iron shears; éclairs in the yard like party subs; And the octopus candlesticks hold back the devil’s eggs instead of the electors. (Talks are underway to open a Gohar World store in Rock Center later this year, hence the venue.)
Like Laila’s food, Gohar World’s aesthetics emphasize artisanal quality and craftsmanship but fall somewhere in between the funny-Hectare and funny-huh? This egg candlestick can be yours for $298. Pair of Egyptian Linen Ribbed Bibs, $135. A mini lace shawl—they call it a bonnet—for Tomato is $42.
Just like the sisters themselves—Nadia attends the party in an embroidered Chanel suit, and Lila in a Prada pink satin mini dress, cut off at the lower back revealing a (temporary) bean-shaped gauhar tattoo—the elements emanate a playful sense of luxury. . “Most things, you know, I absolutely don’t need,” admits Nadia. “But it’s something you add to your table.” Or your one: a beaded chicken feet necklace (already sold out) or a custom baguette satin bag. “There has to be a sense of humor,” Laila says. “Otherwise, he’s an unbearable type. If something is too elegant for his sake, it really gets on my nerves.” Elegant woodland conversation. Johar Global is asking for it. “I mean, if you were to go to the farmer’s market with a baguette stand with satin ribbons draped over your whole arms,” Lila says, “people would definitely be like, What the hell is going on with you?“
Diffusion provides the essence of experience and ambiance as much as ease; When Lily prepared food for her friend Daphne Javich’s baby shower, she offered carrots still covered in soil. “People didn’t know if it was going to be eaten or not,” Javich tells me. “I went to events where it seems, That’s cool, but I’m wearing high heels – do I need to peel a boiled egg? But I love it about her, because I can get a peeled, hard-boiled egg just about anywhere. There was only a little bit of weirdness left. She has this air of abandonment as if none of it really matters.”
The Gohars grew up in Cairo, where their father – a journalist, photographer and creative cook going through only Jawhar – would invite local dignitaries and a fishmonger to dinner. “The claim to fame is that he did nothing twice,” says Nadia. “It was always a little skewed somewhat, but in a delicious way,” Lily says. “Once he made a terrine with strawberries in it. I remember Nadia and my mom didn’t eat them. And he and I were like, Mmm, gourmet, delicious. I definitely took a page out of his book.”
Laila and Nadia went to the United States to attend university. Nadia studied art, and Laila studied international relations. “I’ve always been interested in food,” Laila says. “But I thought I needed to do something more thoughtful.” But when she moved to New York, she tested recipes for cooking websites and started making esoteric snacks for her stylish and well-connected friends. Snacks have become a business.
On the roof, a mix of fashion, design and hospitality (a friend of Lily’s is restaurateur Ignacio Matos), and they all turned out well, sip on mezcal margaritas. Jenna Lyons, the former president of J.Crew, excited in a three-piece suit, shirtless, about lace doilies; Growing up in California, “I’ve never seen a tablecloth,” she says. In Cairo, Laila replies, even a toilet paper roll had one. As evening falls, MC Sister Nancy on the dance floor takes the microphone for a performance, Mark Ronson DJs, Cobrasnake in a trucker hat, poses for cake slices and partygoers, in that order.
It has the feel of a messy dinner party; Sister Nancy leads the “Happy Birthday Johar” tour. By the end of the night, tables were covered with tablecloths of Gohar World shirts—complete with collars—strewn with half-eaten sandwiches, knives smeared with pastry cream, and small sausage bits, and music could be heard pounding seven flights down the street. After midnight, the cops come. Layla is unfazed. “I think it’s better to end the party on a high note, than to fade,” she told me.