The Leakey Collection is set to debut, at the February 2015 NY NOW tradeshow, a new line of hand-screened scarves using designs co-created by the Maasai women of Kenya and Leakey Collection co-founder Katy Leakey. Characteristically, the Leakey Collection is working side by side with Maasai women to interpret their cultural legacy into fairly traded handcraft made as sustainably as possible.
The Maasai are a tall, proud, and graceful people that live a traditionally pastoral lifestyle in the magnificent Great Rift Valley of Kenya and Tanzania. Adorned in colorful clothing and ornaments, the Maasai still keep their traditions intact - herding cattle and living off the land- as modernization and outside influences begin to change the world around them.
In 2001, a terrible drought persisted, resulting in several years of ruin and devastation to the pasture lands. The Maasai's livelihood disappeared as their cattle died. The men had to drive the few remaining cattle hundreds of miles away in search for better grazing while the women looked desperately for ways to feed, clothe, and educate their children and obtain medical supplies.
Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai in the Kenyan bush, wanted to help their neighbors and provide them with work opportunities without changing their culture. They came up with an imaginative idea to utilize the excellent beading abilities of the Maasai women by deploying a readily available, sustainable, locally sourced grass as the primary element.
Soon the women were harvesting grass, one blade at a time. Now, nearly 15 years later, The Leakey Collection is a leader in fair-trade and sustainability without compromising the high design principles that the company was founded on. The work opportunities for the women have resulted in significant improvements in their quality of life, most notably in healthcare and education.
In addition to the new collection of block printed scarves, The Leakey Collection will also be featuring five new "Cause Bracelets". Like their popular Beads for Learning collection, each of these new designs will specifically contribute to improving the lives of the Maasai in the following ways: Blue supports clean water initiatives; Green supports healthy gardens; Red helps women’s empowerment programs; Orange raises funds to maintain the Graduate our Girls fund; and Purple bracelets help to end domestic violence.