Meet Your Maker: Popinjay, Pakistan

By Fashion Revolution

7 years ago

Zareen Muzaffar from Popinjay tells us about the fair trade production process and one of the talented female artisans Ansar Parveen:

Popinjay is a socially conscious handbag label, conceptualized by an MIT-educated engineer turned social entrepreneur Saba Gul. Saba was inspired by the story of an Afghan girl Azaada Khan, who masked herself as a boy for 12 years to be able to attend school at a time when girls were prohibited by law to do so. Azaada’s struggles were raw and moving to Saba who grew up in neighboring Pakistan, where girls went through similar struggles to get access to basic rights. Saba quit her six-figure salary in the US to pilot a program that provided livelihoods and education to young Pakistani women. This pilot ultimately became Popinjay.


Production Process:
Each Popinjay handbag has a signature element – hand embroidery done in silk threads. The hand-embroidered motifs are then set in the best-quality leather. Through the sale of these handbags, Popinjay enables livelihoods for our 150 female artisans, revives ancient craft techniques, and adds timeless style to the fashion-forward woman’s closet.

Each motif takes anywhere from 50 to 100 hours of hand embroidery per piece.

Our production partners at a workshop in Lahore work hard to create quality products. The bags are finished in small batches and are 80% handmade. The materials used to create our handbags include pure leather, silk threads, satin and suede, a majority of it all being locally sourced.

Artisan Profile:
My name is Ansar Parveen and I am 31 years old. I got married right after tenth grade when I was 17 years old and I have 3 daughters and 2 sons. My oldest daughter Tehreen Shahzadi is 9 years old.

My husband drives a car for a family in Lahore and makes about $100 per month. Last month, I took home $60 from embroidery I did for Popinjay’s products. Today I can contribute to my family’s needs in a significant way because I earn 50-60% of my husband’s salary by only working 3-4 hours a week. I feel more valued, respected and proud making this contribution to my family. The income is primarily used for school fees, books and uniforms for my 3 school-going children.

I attended school till grade 7 and that’s when my mother passed away and my uncles inherited the responsibility of helping me continue my education. I struggled to keep myself in school until 10th grade by borrowing money from relatives, but I couldn’t continue going to school when my uncles married me off.

ansar 5

My dream is to own a home of my own – even if it is small. I take great pride in being a master at embroidering the motifs on Popinjay’s Timurid Baguette – one of our most intricate patterns. It makes use of 7 colors, which I now know by heart.

My role model has always been my mother. I will never forget her. She was a great woman – a patient and loving mother, a dedicated wife. She was so young when she had us but she made sure her children got an education and food on the table. My mother died almost 15 years ago of a brain tumor and I want my daughters to be as strong as their grandmother.

I recently purchased a sewing machine after saving up money and now I am able to stitch my own children’s clothes as well as clothes for my nieces and nephews. I am happy that I can make extra money on the side by utilizing this machine and making clothes for other families and neighbors in the village.

Connecting the Customer with the Maker of the Products They Buy

At Popinjay, we allow customers to send letters to the makers of the products they buy.

For Valentine’s Day 2014, to connect our customers with our artisan women, we had launched our love campaign. This campaign celebrated the sweet bond that cultivates between our skilled artisans and our customers, the guardian of their traditions. Through our company’s website, our customers were able to submit virtual love letters to one of the four featured artisan women. And we were simply elated to see letters of love coming in from all over the world! When our founder, Saba, read out some of the letters to the artisans, they truly felt like celebrities!

The initiative was a huge success so we have kept the virtual letter submission feature on our website and continue to deliver letters from our customers to our artisans.

For more information on Ansar Parveen and our company please visit


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