Levant sweets: A Triumph In The Face of Adversity

The owner of Baklava shop Levant sweets describes what it’s been like starting a business during a pandemic.

A brand new baklava shop opened on Dalry road on the 14th of March. A day that for most business owners would be filled with excitement and hope quickly became filled with doubt for owner Kaswar Mostafa as the nation soon after went into lockdown. They’ve had some challenges to face but have been successful in the face of adversity and in introducing authentic middle eastern delicacies to Edinburgh.

Today, the business thrives. The company now exports their goods all over Europe and can be found on the desert menus of many different cafes and restaurants such as Time Out cafe in Glasgow. Kaswar discussed all the different cities his baklava can be found.

“We started shipping all the way to Austria, to Germany. We started supplying to shops in Dundee, Stirling, Glasgow, Belfast, even down south in England. We ship to London,” he said. They are also widely available to order for home delivery on takeaway apps such as just eat and uber eats making them one of the few desert establishments available on the apps. Levant sweets are always active on social media, posting lots of pictures on Facebook to increase their visibility online. Kaswar accredits much of their success to effective advertising strategies.

“We had offered to give free samples to customers and we did lots of advertising before opening,” he said. Business for Levant sweets, however, was not always so straight forward. They had to make a lot of adjustments soon after opening.

On opening day, the business was thriving, over 200 customers visited the shop eager to taste the homemade sweets but as lockdown started things got tricky. Kaswar described challenges they faced.

“A few days after opening the lockdown came, we had so much stock and we couldn’t leave it as it has a limited consuming date,” he said. The sit in services were also compromised, “We had a nice setting and lots of tables, we had to change all our plans to just sweets for takeaway,” he said.

With another lockdown potentially on the horizon, businesses face uncertainty once again, however, Kaswar is confident his business will continue to thrive despite the circumstances, “I’m not worried at all,” he said, “we don’t have any people working for us so we minimise the costs. We just have a few expenses like the rent and the utility bills. The government also gave us about a grand so that helped us a lot, especially at the beginning so that was really appreciated.”

During a time where businesses are collapsing, one thing feels certain. Kaswar and his business partner will continue to push through and adapt despite the circumstances and enrich the city with their authentic delicacies and provide Edinburgh with sweet Baklava through all the doom and gloom.

Daniela Groza: Carving a Sustainable Future in Jewellery Design

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One of Daniela Groza’s designs. (Credit: Theodor Mihalcea-Simoiu)

Independent jewellery designer and co-founder of the R Sustainable Fashion Show; Daniela Groza is the perfect example of how the younger generation is grasping at the potential of an increasingly sustainable future.

Currently a third year Jewellery Design student at the Edinburgh College of Art, Daniela is passionate about sustainability and conscious clothing, often repurposing her old items into new jewellery pieces.

Through combining her creative skills and knowledge of both design and science, the inspiring student is hoping to propose solutions and raise awareness of the environmental and social implications of our fast fashion and consumerist based tendencies.

For Daniela, jewellery has always been a passion. From making duct tape wallets at the age of 10, her abilities soon developed towards taking bead-work and wire-work jewellery classes near her home in Romania. Leading to her selling her own designs over Facebook at the age of 14.

Back then she was young and unaware of the negative implications behind the Textile and Mining Industries.

“It was only when I came to Edinburgh University that I started to learn about sustainability within fashion. By taking part in a Sustainable Fashion Show, organised by the student association, I got to experiment with waste materials such as polystyrene, phone cables, cardboard, by turning them into sculptural pieces of jewellery for the runway show,” she explains.

Since then, Daniela has been elected by the ECA to be a student Ambassador for the Ethical Making Pledge, raising awareness of the importance of using recycled metals and natural dyes as a practicing jeweller.

Her role is to make the workshop a safer and more eco-friendly environment by implementing natural substitutes for the chemical-based solutions that we use in jewellery making.

“AEON is my latest collection of jewellery, released right before Christmas 2018. Inspired by Architecture, the concept behind it was the idea of preserving ancient artefacts through incorporating modern features, by using the process of digital fabrication and 3D printing.  I created a series of architectural landscapes to be adorned on the body, giving life to unique fashion statements.

“I have begun to turn towards a more ethical and conscious practice, using recycled silver and natural dyes. For this collection, I used silver dust and scrap that I had gathered in a jar since my 1st year of University.

“Another process used is called Electro-forming, which is growing a layer of metal onto a surface, using electricity. Using this technique, I grew copper textures onto my 3D printed objects, giving them an antique finish. I also used natural dyes such as Charcoal,” she says.

 

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Daniela’s university career has been busy – not that she minds. When she’s not designing new pieces for future collections, she’s simultaneously running her online shop and arranging future events to follow last years hugely successful show and exhibition – R Sustainable Fashion Show.

“I am very lucky to have found my passion from a young age, therefore I decided to turn it into a career by joining the Jewellery and Silversmithing programme at Edinburgh College of Art.

“Currently in year 3, the collections I create are both for my course and for my online store, this way I combine my studies with my personal business,” she says.

The R Sustainable Fashion Show is a professional platform through which student designers and artists can engage with the wider audience on matters related to sustainability, by presenting their work publicly.

“We are constantly working towards the R Sustainable Fashion Show 2019 and so we will be doubling the number of attendants for this year’s event and are aiming for an audience of at least 400 people. The event will take place on March 24th at the Jam House, Edinburgh,” Daniela explains.

This years event is a chance to fundraise for One Cherry, a local startup that digitalises local charity shops by implementing an online platform for their products to be advertised, encouraging online charity shopping.

The event consists of a runway show including student designers, and will end with a preview of “the best of” One Cherry charity shop outfits.

Amidst all this planning, Daniela is learning Japanese ahead of her study abroad term in Osaka this April.

“I chose Japan because I want to travel to a place where I have never been to experience and taste a new culture. I think it’s a cool language and I am very excited to meet people, share ideas, explore new approaches to design, and learn new skills!” she says.

With new ventures on the horizon Daniela is undoubtedly acing the student come business women act, successfully creating an authentic and unique business model based on renewable principles.

“There is always room for improvement when it comes to sustainability. We’re really hoping to raise awareness of the future of fashion, sustainable material manipulation, and ethical practices, through our Exhibition and Runway showcase RSFS 2019.”

Shop Daniela’s latest jewellery collection here.

Photos by Theodor Mihalcea-Simoiu

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