Before the pandemic, the chef and artist Laila Gohar would throw a dinner party at her Manhattan apartment at least once a week — inviting artists, designers, writers, actors and others to gather at her table over food and drink. “My house has an open-door policy,” says Gohar. “I always think, ‘If you can have 10 people, you can always make it 12.’” After social distancing became the norm, and dinner parties a thing of the past, Gohar’s own work and life shifted. Suddenly, the time seemed right to revisit an idea she and her younger sister Nadia, also an artist, had been contemplating for years: How do you translate the experience of dining together — of treating everyday rituals with reverence — into objects that will last beyond one evening?
Their answer is Gohar World, a playful collection of 40 handmade table accessories. There are lacy bonnets for vegetables, glass knife and fork rests shaped like pieces of hard candy and a candelabra made to hold eggs rather than candles. “People are yearning to be together and to be around things that look like they took time to make,” says Laila, who uses food as her medium, creating installations and abstract tablescapes in which roses are suspended in fish-shaped jellies or butter is molded to look like hands.
The duo had originally envisaged their project as a way to revive specific arts-and-crafts traditions, sourcing lacemakers, glass blowers and chandlers from Vienna to Milan to their native Cairo. Nadia, who also lives in New York City, oversaw much of the production, and the sisters’ maternal grandmother, Nabila, a former dressmaker, contributed many of the black bows that serve as napkin rings and decorate baguette bags.
Eventually, the line will expand to include a brick-and-mortar location in New York. “We’re always holding something up and asking each other, ‘Is this too chic for its own good?’ When something is, it’s a fail,” says Laila. “At the end of the day, we’re about celebration and people coming together. If you’re going to be precious and not have any humor, then what’s the point?”
Photo assistant: Nathaniel Jerome. Set assistants: Malena Burman, Yukimi Furusono