What happens when two women, one singularly focused on salad and the other on candy, get together on a Saturday afternoon? They roll up their sleeves and make conceptual edible arrangements.
Maayan Zilberman, the woman behind the bespoke candy company, Sweet Saba, entered my life through a pair of underpants. Not just any pair, but the most precious pair that have ever graced my uninspired underwear drawer. An artist by training, Maayan was recruited to design lingerie at the ripe age of 21. She cut her teeth as the head designer for a small start-up label, with a steep learning curve that necessitated “a lot of mistakes.” Despite having never before designed apparel, the brand was so successful, it was promptly sold. Maayan was newly free and armed with some legitimate skills, so in 2007, she teamed up with a friend to create their own lingerie line, a much more upscale, direct expression of her own personal style. The line was called The Lake & Stars, and it was some of the sexiest shit I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just about the underwear. The creative direction for the brand was enough to have you renounce the “$20 for 5 pair” lifestyle all-together. As she tells it, “we made a collection, and just called up Vogue. We showed them the pieces the following day, and they did a feature on us in the very next issue. And this is when we were still sewing the pieces ourselves!”
Flash forward ten years, and Maayan has made herself a fixture in yet another niche of the fashion industry. Her custom handmade candy has graced the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and has been the gift of choice for everyone from Jimmy Choo to The Whitney Museum. Perusing the baker’s racks of candy in Maayan’s downtown Brooklyn studio is an experience akin to shopping for jewels, each tray holds something more precious than the last, from garish painted cassette tapes to wispy golden feathers. Whether she’s making edible Carrie Bradshaw identity necklaces, or anise flavored Ray Ban sunglasses, her hand is always visible in each one-of-a-kind piece. The brushwork is even more remarkable once given her signature 2” long “Sweet Saba Red” fingernails (yes, Maayan maintains those beauties herself, and even has a proprietary Orly nail polish named in her honor).
Maayan and I took the opportunity of our meeting to collaborate on an edible arrangement of our joint improvisation. I’d imagine most of us have a soft spot for Edible Arrangements, with their stalwart commitment to out-of-season fruit, coated in chocolate shell, sweaty with condensation. I’m not sure I have ever seen an Edible Arrangement in real life, but for Maayan, this was personal. Growing up in Vancouver by way of Israel, her mother commissioned custom edible arrangements to be made as centerpieces for her Bat Mitzvah. The team at Vancouver’s “Lazy Gourmet” catering company took their inspiration from the famed American office gift, and flipped over watermelon halves and impaled them with fruit-laden shish kabobs. For a woman with impeccable taste, Maayan tells me, “It still haunts me. The fruit was sticking out of the melons like porcupines. There were like, 25 tables, with floral chintz tablecloths. There was purple tableware.”
With this spectre as our point of departure, we could either fuck it up or improve upon the concept, and both outcomes would be worth our while.