Dr Cary is the founder of Aila Cosmetics (pronounced eye-luh), a luxe US-based nail colour brand that provides a beautifully curated colour palette without compromising function or nail health (also see my Five Best Vegan Nail Polishes article). Their range is cruelty-free and vegan, using natural health-promoting ingredients wherever possible (e.g. they have a soy-based nail polish remover with argan oil) and without the usual nasties you often find in mainstream brands (for a full list of what’s not in their nail colours see their website – it’s too long to list here!).
Dr Cary’s credentials are impressive – she’s a board-certified US podiatric surgeon, who was inspired to create her own line of nail polishes after finding that even supposedly ‘healthy’ nail polish brands were falling short of what she wanted for herself and her patients. However, the real catalyst for her starting Aila Cosmetics was a series of changes she was making to her own life, following a challenging time that involved recovery from a rare cancer scare, finalizing a divorce, managing a medical practice, and struggling to care for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Her life was off-balance and her health was suffering – which led to an ‘awakening’ where she started eliminating things (and people) in her life that weren’t healthy. She started nourishing her body with the right foods instead of restricting calories, and began focusing not only on what she put into her body but also what she put on her body – and so Aila was born.
Aila Cosmetics – like so many great vegan brands – isn’t just a commercial enterprise but is about empowering consumers to take care of their health and the environment, whilst being able to feel great about what they’re buying. In addition, they have a Giving Back program close to Dr Cary’s heart, called ‘Five Senses’ which is for the SPD Foundation (kids with SPD receive messages from their senses like everyone else, but their brains cannot process the messages properly so can’t produce the appropriate behavioural response).
We put Dr Cary through the Immaculate Interview.
What three words would you use to describe your style?
Is ‘Trendy Mom’ a style? I think that’s me but my children may not agree.
What are your favourite brands?
I gave up on focusing on specific brands when I turned 40 and learned to dress to compliment my body shape. I’m very petite and clothes that don’t make me look like a small child are difficult to find. J Brand jeans fit me well and Nicole Miller dresses flatter my figure, but everything else is a fashion ‘free-for-all’. I will wear anything that aligns with my personal beliefs and that compliments my age and my changing body.
What is your most treasured fashion item?
My fiancé bought me a Chanel handbag as a gift. I NEVER spend this kind of money on myself but the classic Chanel handbag is something I treasure. It can make any outfit look spectacular. I wish that some of these couture brands would incorporate vegan options, but I still recognize the iconic history of this handbag.
What’s been your biggest fashion mistake?
Not dressing for my body type and age. I think many women make this mistake and get ‘stuck’ in a fashion rut. I love fashion but I am not very good at choosing things that work best for my body. My fiancé loves to dress me and I love to let him. This may sound backwards to some people who think I am giving up my independence to a man, but that is not the situation. He is very fashion forward and knows what makes me look great, and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when something does not suit me. He even helps me chose bathing suits! The first time he wanted to help me with this I almost died. There is nothing worse than trying on bathing suits in front of someone!!!
Who is your style icon and why?
Olivia Palermo. She is always en pointe. I also really admire Melania Trump’s style. I understand that for some she is a polarizing figure but in my mind that does not eliminate her from being a style icon.
Your brand is vegan – are you also vegan?
I have tried to become fully vegan and I am just not there yet. I grew up in a farming family and our animals were our family. We raised chickens, pigs, cows, bees and goats. I LOVE our family’s honey and I LOVE teaching my children about sustainable farming. There is something about teaching your children to care for an animal’s needs while at the same time teaching them how to collect eggs and honey. They learn so much from these ‘hands on’ experiences and I believe they develop an even deeper respect for animals.
What are your favourite foods?
Coffee. Chocolate. Wine.
If you weren’t doing running Aila Cosmetics – what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I’m still doing it! I am still a practicing surgeon.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
How do you let your hair down?
I have to get out of town. If I don’t leave home I will continue to work, so to really relax I have to get away for a few days. We frequent Alys Beach in Florida. Ultimately I want to retire there.
Who do you think we should interview next and why?
Actually, I would like to read your answers to these questions. I admire your vision and presentation. It would be interesting to me to read more about your journey!
Interview with Francisca Pineda, Founder of Bhava Studio
Interview with Lee Coren, Vegan Designer Extraordinaire