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For Popinjay founder Saba Gul the story of Popinjay is rooted in cultural beauty, a love of country and a desire to create a meaningful impact for disadvantaged women artisans. Through elegant native design steeped in Pakistan’s rich artisanal and cultural history, Popinjay has connected with customers in the West to bring education, opportunity and hope back to rural villages back East.
As Gul describes “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 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.”
What Gul couldn’t shake is that while this young girl had to change her identity to get a middle school education, she was getting her second degree at MIT. Determined to use her good fortune to improve the lives of others, Gul traveled to the same community in Pakistan where the NGO that had helped young Azaada to get an education was based. Once there, Gul started a pilot program to provide girls and women access to basic education and skills training. Eventually, in 2011, Gul took the plunge leaving her corporate job in the United States to return to Pakistan and work on her program full-time. After 2 years of running this NGO, Popinjay rebranded using luxury, accessories to not only showcase the work of the talented artisans and weavers in her program but also to create a more sustainable revenue model to grow the program.
For Gul, the decision to return to Pakistan was a calling. It was the place she calls home and unfortunately, a country that has suffered serious economic stagnation and even neglect. Yet at the same time, Pakistan has a rich history and immense talent when it comes to art and craftsmanship and in that sense it was the ideal place for Gul to “create a business that preserves traditional craft while giving underprivileged women access to livelihood and dignity.”
Today, Gul works with, mentors and employs 150 artisans who come together every day in their community center in the village of Hafzabad, a two hour drive from Lahore. While many artisans were trained in sewing, weaving and stitching, Gul and Popinjay work to translate those skills and craft into the beautiful products that Popinjay have become known for.
Today Popinjay prides itself on being able to support and grow talent within Pakistan while providing the artisans with a global stage to display their work on the arms of women all over the world. Popinjay’s second collection, “Habana” which Modavanti is proud to carry will branch out and tackle new motifs. After the succesful launch of Popinjay’s first collection, which was inspired by more traditional architectural motifs from distinct periods of Islamic history, this collection pays homage to early 20th century Cuban art movements and the beauty of old Havana.
Modavanti is proud to work with such an incredibly talented and admirable company with a mission that is as beautiful as the brand.
* Bliss has since rebranded to Popinjay