Home is where that cute-ass elephant statue is.
Many a store owner would refer to their business as their baby, but Donia El Sadat is one of those who have truly nurtured and educated their baby into being a grounded member of their community. Leaves & Co. is a tableware and homeware brand that has a home in every Egyptian city it has traveled to. The concept behind it is largely based in social entrepreneurship and from that, El Sadat was able to market some unique and authentic creations.
The 33 year old mother of two birthed her project between Cairo and Menoufiya, her hometown and where she grew up. On the farm in which her family has its roots, Sadat was encouraged by her mother to always go beyond the gates, meet people and interact with them. Through that, she learned about the socio-economic troubles the people around her faced. She wanted to give back.
Having acquired a degree in mass communication from the American University in Cairo (AUC), before travelling to London as a newlywed to get her master’s in social entrepreneurship, Sadat found herself ready to hit the market. “In London, I happily owned a white bicycle with a wooden basket which I cycled around with. Window shopping was an eye opener, specifically walking into the world of homeware retail shops, which is my passion. Seeing shop windows done up with lemons and greenery, displaying designs and products, dense with creativity and taste, it was a complete shift.”
In 2017, realising that consumers are becoming more loyal to brands with social causes, she founded Leaves & Co., fuelled by the aim producing with marginalised craftsmen and women, bringing the best out of them, helping them develop and including them in the market. “Customers appreciate if you put the effort to travel around to discover and dig deep to find the hidden gems of craftsmanship in Egypt. They appreciate that and value it,” Sadat elaborated.
She debuted her concept last summer with an 8-week pop-up store in Sahel. Every weekend, they completely changed the display of the store, making it feel like something else completely. The tiny 5x6 metre space always felt new inside, but the real depth of her concept comes from her inspiration.
Having taken the brand to her hometown, Menoufiya, as well as other Egyptian cities like Luxor, Fayoum, Alexandria and Qalyoubiya, she was able to reap her concept from the vernacular styles that characterise each of these cities. From Luxor, for example, she was inspired to create her signature wooden bowls, and from Fayoum, she conceived her pom-pom baskets, inspired by local basket-makers around lake Qarun. Alexandria inspired her to create the most adorable fish serving-platters, and Cairo some colorful, pop-style studded jars capturing the jolliness of a morning in Downtown.
Sadat was making so much noise with her design orientation that the peeps from TBS found out about her and had her design their food plating concept for their TBS-Kitchen. “I consider food plating a very important part of the interior, the look and feel of a place. It is art. It is one of the most important items in the restaurant experience since it’s what the client looks at the most. It is a whole experience on its own,” she says. Right now, she’s also taking her concept-work to Palm Hills 6 October’s new branch of Cake Café, working with who she refers to as “the queen of display and presentation” Kesmat Mehlemy.
Sadat is currently working on developing the brand itself, to communicate best what it stands for: a journey to find “the hidden gems of craftsmanship” all around Egypt, through travel and interaction. A Cairo store is also due to open.
For now, you can check her out on Instagram.