Frequently asked questions

about leakey

Fact Sheet:

The Company: The Leakey Collection
Founded: 2002 by Katy and Philip Leakey.
They currently live in the rural bush of the Rift Valley in Kenya, among the Maasai.

Mission:

A company that designs contemporary products, which are hand made by the Maasai women and men of Kenya in the categories of interior home, fashion accessories and skin care.

Offers employment opportunity to over 1,400 Kenyans depending on the season.

Environment:

  • Assembly of products for The Leakey Collection in Kenya is done in a non- factory setting. Women work under the acacia trees whenever work is needed in the Rift Valley.
  • Work sites are set up only when invited into a community by Maasai women and the elders.
  • Work sites span over 150 miles in the Rift Valley.

Eco Materials:

  • All materials used by The Leakey Collection are environmentally sustainable.
  • Only fallen dead wood is used to maintain the earth friendly element.
  • The environmentally sustainable harvest of the grass also works to preserve the wetlands since the communities no longer burn the grass, which cattle do not eat, to make room for the plentiful grass that cattle do eat.

The Leakey Collection Line:

  • Zulugrass, Zuluwood, Marula Skincare Line, and Interior Home Line are eco friendly products of The Leakey Collection.
  • Passementerie line, (fringe and trims), which is distributed by Samuel and Sons in New York and is available at selected Holly Hunt and Kneedler-Fauchere show rooms around the United States.

Awards:

  • 2002 -The Environment Conscious Award from the Association of Makers and Exporters of Gifts and Allied Articles of Kenya for its innovative use and management of natural materials.
  • 2008- One of twelve finalists in the BBC World Challenge; a global contest for companies creating positive, sustainable change for rural people in developing countries.
  • 2008-Co-founders Philip and Katy Leakey were guest speakers at the World Export and Development Forum in Switzerland for their expertise in the field of Fair Trade.
  • 2012-Marula-The Leakey Collection was awarded "Best New Product in the Natural/Organic Category" for their prestige new skin care oil, Marula - The Leakey Collection™ (http://marula.com) at Ex•tracts®,a beauty division of the 2012 Winter New York International Gift Fair.

Local Inititatives:

  • Five percent of all sales is donated back to the local communities in the form of health benefits, education, and infrastructure.
  • 2008-Started a Women’s Health Initiative to train local health care workers that reach out to others in the community and assist in mid-wife childbirth, healing the wounded, and caring for the sick.
  • 2011- The Beads for Learning program pays for teacher’s salaries in local communities to aid in lowering the student teacher ratio from 80/1 to 45/1 and to improve the quality of education.
  • Works with community elders to assist and advise on important local issues such as economic growth, identifying opportunities, and assisting schools.

Product: Zulugrass

Concept of Zulugrass:
  • Design your own fashion jewelry that can be worn in a variety of ways; necklaces, choker or long bracelets, belts, anklets, hair-ties, and more.
  • Also, can be used creatively as gifts with other applications.
  • Our use of natural earth elements keeps our products environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable for many Kenya communities.

Jewelry Designers: Katy and Philip Leakey

What Its Made of:

  • Zulugrass handmade jewelry is made from grass beads dyed with textile dyes and mixed with hand blown Czech glass beads and Japanese glass beads and strung on elastic that was used for the movie Spiderman.
  • The grass is harvested by hand, blade by blade from tall stands, and cut by hand, bead by bead. The grass grows with a hole in it and is hard and durable, often used in the furniture industry because of its strength.
  • Water-proof, colorfast, and long-lasting. The elastic has a memory of over 6 years and can endure everyday, sun, shower, pool or ocean.
  • The grass takes the dye in such a way as to reflect a deep luminescence and vibrant color.
  • We use only the highest quality glass beads available in the world, those of Czech Republic and Japan, which are renowned for reflecting the most striking rays of pure color.
  • Various styles of Zulugrass jewelry are Amani, mulit-strand necklaces and bracelets,& handcrafted porcelain pendants and charms.

Product: Zuluwood

  • Zuluwood is a classic line of jewelry hand crafted from fallen wood. Beads of richly hued and lovely grain are strung into necklaces and bracelets. Each precious bead is hand burnished for a gem stone quality.

Product: Interior Home Accessories

  • The Interior Home line consists of bowls, platters, sushi sets, bread boards, and more.
  • Hand crafted from fallen Acacia Tortillis, an extremely hard wood with deep hues and lovely fine grain.

Product: Marula-The Leakey Collection Skin Care Line

  • The skin care line is mainly based on the healing properties of Marula Oil. This penetrating, light, non-greasy, deeply hydrating and restorative oil has been used for centuries by women in Africa to treat stretch marks, scars, heal burns, and to hydrate the skin- keeping it soft and healthy.

Quick Facts About the Maasai:

  • The Maasai culture is 800 years old.
  • A proud, nomadic, pastoral tribe many of whom are still living by their ancient traditions in East Africa.
  • Mainly cattle herders and believe that God entrusted them the responsibility to look after all the cattle of the world.
  • The majority of the financial income for a Maasai family comes from trading cattle and is under the sole control of the men.
  • The Maasai speak the dialect of Maa. “Maasai” translates as “The People of Maa”.
  • About a half a million Maasai live in East Africa today with one quarter of a million living in Kenya.
  • Heavily influenced by Christianity since missionaries moved into their territories dating as far back as the eighteen hundreds.

What’s Happening to The Maasai Today?

Current pressures on the Maasai culture are a combination of environmental, cultural and financial factors. It is difficult for many young Maasai men to find work in their communities outside of cattle herding, which is not always economically sufficient for families with modern demands of education and medical expenses and is not necessarily appealing to a young educated generation. Many are migrating to the urban areas in search of work, leaving behind a culture struggling to survive. Many families in arid regions struggle financially and during dry seasons, the hardships can be profound.

Traditionally Maasai women do not earn an income and they work hard around the home. In the beginning, the Leakeys struggled to bring the work to the women but the men who remained in the communities kicked against the women's new founded economic independence. Gradually, the men came to realize the tremendous financial help the women were bringing to their families and now they enthusiastically embrace their wives and daughters ability to earn an income.

The women use the income to provide the basic necessities of food, education fees, and medical expenses, to improving their lifestyles such as buying their own herds of goats, purchasing land and starting their own businesses.

With these new job opportunities, the Maasai community is now flourishing:
  • Communities become more stable financially and politically.
  • More children are receiving an education.
  • The general overall health of communities has improved.
  • Small service businesses begin to flourish as there is money to spend locally.
  • The men have developed more appreciation for the work that women do, both at home and earning an income.
  • The men have progressed through several stages in just a matter of years; first, afraid of what would happen when a woman becomes financially independent, second, appreciating her efforts and rewards, third, wanting to improve their own financial situation once they see the advancement of their wives and daughters.
  • Communities become more environmentally aware.
  • The women are now seeking advice on ways to invest their money.

Why was Zulugrass Created?

Zulugrass was born out of a need. After the devastating drought in Kenya around 2001, the Leakeys were supporting as many as 100 Maasai families by giving them money for food, school fees, medical expenses and housing. This was not sustainable for either party. The men had left the women and children behind in order to take the surviving cattle far up country in search of grazing land. The men had been away for as long as two years.

Philip Leakey came up with the idea to create jewelry made from grass. Then his wife, Katy, came up with the concept of the single strand on elastic as a design your own jewelry system. The contemporary and global Zulugrass Jewelry with the Zulugirl logo was born.

Currently, Zulugrass is sold in over 20 countries worldwide and growing.