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Popinjay’s Hand-Embroidered Bags Lift Pakistani Women From Poverty

Popinjay started as a pilot with 25 teenage girls in Attock in the Punjab province of Pakistan in 2011.

By Helen Morgan - Source: http://www.ecouterre.com

Photo ©  Popinjay

Photo © Popinjay


Popinjay has social justice in the bag. Founded by MIT graduate Saba Gul, the luxury purveyor employs some 150 women artisans in Gul’s native Pakistan to make its high-end leather purses, clutches, satchels, and totes. Popinjay didn’t have the smoothest of beginnings. After a false start as a nonprofit, Popinjay reinvented itself as a for-profit with a more-sophisticated bent. Gul’s mission has never wavered, however. Behind Popinjay’s beautiful hand-embroidered bags lies a deep-seated desire to create opportunities for those who have none. But more than an instrument to help the disenfranchised achieve self-sufficiency, Popinjay is also the antithesis of “fast fashion.” Each bag is a celebration of age-old craftsmanship, locally sourced materials, and the indomitable female spirit. Ecouterre sat down with Gul to discuss Popinjay’s evolution, its influences, and the future of the fashion industry.
Photo ©  Popinjay

Photo © Popinjay

How did the idea behind Popinjay come about?

The road to Popinjay’s creation as a luxury handbag company started when I was in graduate school. I heard the story of a young Afghan girl, Azaada Khan, who disguised herself as a boy for 12 years to be allowed to attend school. She changed her name, cut her hair, the way she dressed, walked, talked and everything about her to take on this new identity. I could not stop thinking about Azaada’s story—it was so real and raw for me.

Even though I had grown up in next-door Pakistan, my life had taken a radically different course from Azaada’s. while she had to change her identity to get a middle school education, I was getting my second degree at MIT.

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