Popinjay began with the grand vision of providing equal opportunity to everyone on the planet.
Growing up in Lahore, the founder of Popinjay Saba Gul was heartbroken at how immense talent is underutilized here. While studying abroad, she heard a story of an Afghan girl, who masked herself as a boy in order to attend school.
Popinjay products are individually handmade in Pakistan. They represent a revival of ancient craft techniques, bringing a little bit of history and old-world class.
In 2011, this brand began under the label of BLISS. But during the year that followed, the success of this brand did not reach expectations. Progress slowed, new collection was halted, and since sales channels were limited, the company started running low on money.
“I heavily underestimated the frustrations of raising nonprofit money,” says Gul.
After spending months looking for skilled artisans and experts, they finally moved to Hafizabad from Attock. Currently, 150 women are employed in Hafizabad and are learning the art of hand embroidery on silk and resham threads. So dedicated and passionate they are that they work several hours in the morning to produce a motif for the handbag.
Below is the story of some talented women working with Popinjay. These are women that were unable to get an education when younger due to a lack of financial resources, and lack any marketable skills that would allow them to earn a living for themselves. Popinjay helps these women break the cycle of poverty by training them in an indigenous skill and giving them fair-wage employment.
Mumtaz Bibi personifies poise; her motherly demeanor makes all the younger girls in the program gravitate towards her. Mumtaz has been with Popinjay for a year now, and is now able to earn half her husband’s income.
Saira is a 20-year old high-school graduate. An obsessive fan of cricket, she also takes hand-embroidering Popinjay bags very seriously. Right now, she is saving her income to continue her education!
Salma is 18, but has never attended school. She was among the first fifteen girls to join Popinjay, and is thrilled to learn a new skill, earn her own money, and meet other women and girls for her what she feels is her time off.
Popinjay has given a boost to these artisans by training them so well that it has increased their sales and have gained access to larger markets. The bags produced are very trendy and are composed of finer leather, top-quality hardware and silk instead of cotton.
According to Gul, “The latest set of silk embroideries we got from the women were so intricate and so beautiful they looked like printed fabric. They looked like the work of someone who was a master at her craft.”
Finally, Gul’s dream of elevating the status of women has become true. She’s doing exactly what she wanted. It had been hovering above her head ever since she was studying. She loved how women with immense potential dreamt of working.
“To us, these women are the epitome of resilience, optimism and dignity.”