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Fold and Well: Building Community Through Dessert

How can food design build community? How is it able to address the needs of community members and what relevance does it have to our current landscape? These are some of the questions that multidisciplinary creative Aliyah Pair is parsing through in her new business Fold and Well Pastry based in Brooklyn, New York.

When the pandemic hit, Pair turned to baking and mutual aid to support her friends and community, describing “2020 honestly hit me very hard, I left my career [in fashion design] and I was just trying to figure out what to do. It was a time of hardship and sadness for me and I just really leaned into food and community comfort. Food has always been a big part of my life and now it’s turning into a bigger manifestation where I’m connecting what I love about food with the community.” The natural evolution of a practise based in providing support was the birth of Fold and Well Pastry in 2021.

Pair’s background is in design. She completed her undergraduate degree in interior architecture and curatorial studies and obtained her masters degree in exhibition and experience design for the museum sector. Situated at the core of her work is her desire to design with the needs of the community in mind, explaining “I think the most powerful [designs] come from understanding people. So many of our spaces are run off of capitalism and status and a lot of design is deep rooted in white assuming privilege. Our spaces are lacking in accessibility so when we think about a space in a museum, or a restaurant or a park, depending on who you are and where you live, those spaces don’t read the same”.

“Designers need to be honest about the communities they design for and listen to what the community values and say they need in order to create more inclusive spaces. If we could create space that gives us accessibility—especially when we’re talking about accessibility to marginalized communities—and we can also provide access to joy and comfort, those are the ideal spaces that we should be designing”, she elaborates.

By adapting to her community, Pair’s work is fluid and intersectional. Fold and Well is a space that she designed for creatives in the community, acting as a place for advocacy towards food disparity in marginalized communities. Right now, Pair operates out of her apartment, fulfilling orders and gifting treats to those in need but eventually she hopes to open a brick and mortar establishment that focuses on food, design, and community.

“I think that for every creative that has continued creating throughout this pandemic, we all had to shift the way we work. For me, I was able to reflect on the type of work that I want to do, the communities that I want to serve, and the impact I want to leave” Pair says. With seasonal menus, containing pastries like spiced pear tarts with a vanilla bean and almond filling, double chocolate cookies with cayenne, and blueberry scones (Pair's favourite), Fold and Well brings people together through food, creating a supportive network that puts community first.

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