Designer: Popinjay, Aspiring to Create a More Just, More Beautiful World With Style
Conscious talks to Saba Gul, founder of Popinjay, to showcase her beautifully crafted handbags made by artisans in Pakistan while learning about the brand’s mission to create a dignified, ethical way to allow artisan talent reach global markets. Conscious also addresses the lack of transparency problem in the retail world – “75% of those employed by the fashion world — over 250 million people — live and work in the developing world. Yet the profits rarely ever trickle down to the communities that work hard to create these products.” -Saba Gul
Each Popinjay handbag combines luxurious craftsmanship with ethical business practices to create one-of-a-kind pieces that tell a story. Each handbag has a signature element – the handmade embroidery created by skilled female artisans in Pakistan. At present, 150 women are learning the art of hand embroidery with silk or resham threads. Every morning, the women congregate for three to four hours at their community center in Hafizabad, Pakistan to hand-embroider the motifs seen in each bag using silk threads. Popinjay pays their artisan women up to three times the market rate, and through the sale of their products, they enable livelihoods for the female artisans, revive ancient craft techniques, and add timeless style to the fashion-forward woman’s closet.
INTERVIEW: SABA GUL, FOUNDER OF POPINJAY
Q | What is the inspiration behind Popinjay? Why have you chosen to create a conscious brand? The ‘big hairy audacious’ goal Popinjay has is to create equal opportunities for everyone on the planet. We have a special focus on women, since I was born and raised in Pakistan, and women are the most neglected segment of population there. Popinjay aspires to create a more just, more beautiful world through the production and sale of its products. I have chosen to create a conscious brand because I was blown away by the wealth of talent present in artisan communities in places like Pakistan, and wanted to find a dignified, ethical way to allow this talent to reach global markets. Popinjay is also proud to be a brand that focuses on preserving dying craft and heritage. We obsess over locally sourcing the world’s finest raw materials, and pay meticulous attention to every detail in every product we make, bringing our customers exquisite, timeless pieces that are an antithesis to the modern pandemic of producing and consuming faster. Our signature element is the handmade embroidery you see on all our handbags – embroidery that is slowly disappearing as commercialization and mass production give way to faster, cheaper ways of producing.
We spend months finding some of the world’s most skilled artisans, embroiderers, pattern-makers and seamstresses to bring you the finest workmanship—and it shows in every product we make. When you buy a Popinjay product, you can trust that it will be handmade, high-quality, and yours alone.
Q | What is the problem you are trying to solve? Popinjay aspires to solve the problem that the wealth of talent and skill in the developing world is heavily stunted by a lack of design aesthetic and connections to global markets. Larger brands that do tap into this talent usually do so without bringing much financial benefit to the communities. 75% of those employed by the fashion world — over 250 million people — live and work in the developing world. Yet the profits rarely ever trickle down to the communities that work hard to create these products. Simultaneously, Popinjay tries to solve the problem of a lack of transparency in the retail world. We give our customers full view of our production processes, bringing them stories and images from behind the scenes in Pakistan, and allowing them to purchase products that are making the world a better place.
Q | How has Popinjay impacted 150 female artisans in Pakistan? We work in a small village in northern Punjab where women are mostly unemployed. 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. Many of these women are now making half as much as their husbands make, by working only 3-4 hours every day. Above all, they are able to earn their living with dignity, feel pride that their handiwork is sold across the world, and now see a path to self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. The money they earn from being part of our program is spent on education for their children, healthcare for their families, and basic household and food needs. These women are now able to educate their own children, and dream of a better future for them than they had dared imagine for themselves at that age.
1. Lotus Foldover ($475) | 2. Kufic Quilted Foldover ($295) | 3. Cordoba Satchel ($402)
4. Anfa Envelope Clutch | 5. Iznik Botch Clutch ($245) | 6.Timurid Baguette ($375)
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FROM THE EDITOR
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity, and we’re calling it stories that matter. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop.