Published in Plaid Online, May 2011
Photos by Howard Huang
Leila Shams describes her designs as “weird but wearable.” We at Plaid would give her more credit than that. Her “weirdness” is what we like to call unique and inspired. After working for DKNY, Express, and Bebe, Leila debuted her first collection for S/S 2010 and has since designed for stars such as Ke$ha, Fergie, Keri Hilson and Stephanie Pratt.
Shams’ creativity shines through her signature use of animal prints. Throughout her collections, creatures like peacocks, crocodiles, owls, cats, and zebras have been incorporated into her designs. Her F/W 2011 collection is entitled Shell Shock, which is appropriate for the season’s print of choice: the beetle. “I start with a really specific inspiration. Normally the name comes first,” she says of her process.
Moving from inspiration to production, having her own line allowed Shams to take advantage of the latest innovations in print-making. “You used to only be able to screen print on fabric – that technique allows only a few colors. Digital printing, which I do, is a fairly new technology and allows unlimited colors. But it’s expensive and the back of the fabric is always white, which can look cheap so no big companies would let me do it. The only way I could experiment with these prints is on my own line.”
The result is a hyper-colour animal kingdom set against fashion’s oldest friend, black. Super Freak, her S/S 2011 collection, is a union of tribal elements mixed with disco fever – long, lean silhouettes mixed with sequins, bared skin and feathers. Combined with a few choice accessories of leather, agate and fringe, and you have a wardrobe fit for any occasion in the urban jungle.
For fall, Shams “tried to get beyond just doing dresses – this collection is more well rounded.” Shell Shock includes designs like a neon pink fur vest, leather and lace minis, bustled dresses, and a feather jacket embellished with jewels – the epitome of rock n’ roll glamour. If Super Freak is the sexy ’70s, Shell Shock is the ’80s in all its excess.
Shams can usually be found sporting her wares, and admits that she will never leave the house without heels on. As for her fashion ethos, she’s as carefree as they come. “I never say never. I have or will wear it all.” Take a cue from her philosophy and try on one of her fearless designs for yourself.