Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Krizmah: Designer Bags with a conscience

Hello everyone. Today I want to take you all with me to the beautiful valley of Chitral here in Pakistan. The Chitral Valley at an elevation of 1128 meters (3,700 ft) is popular with mountaineers, hunters, hikers, naturalists and anthropologists.

One of the major attractions of Chitral are the Kalash valleys-the home of the Kafir-Kalash or "Wearers of the Black Robe", a primitive pagan tribe.
Their ancestry is enveloped in mystery and is the subject of controversy. A legend says that the people from Kailash valley are the true descendents of  Alexander  The Great. They are still living between two mountains in three small villages and  are still preaching the Gods which were preached in Alexander's time when he came here centuries ago. His army men married  and settled  here. Since that time Kailashis only married in their own tribe. They  look European, and most of them have white skin, bluish greenish eyes and curly light brown hair like Greeks ! Even Greek government recognise them as their true descendents and nowdays they are making public facilities for the betterment of these people so that they continue living in their original way of life and do not get influenced by modernization

The Kalash women wear black gowns of coarse cloth in summer and hand-spun wool dyed in black in winter. Their picturesque headgear is made of woollen black material decked out with cowrie shells, buttons and crowned with a large colored feather. In parts of Greece even today some women sport a similar headcovering. The Kalash people love music and dancing particularly on occasions of their religious festivals like Joshi Chilimjusht (14th & 15th May - spring), Phool (20th - 25th September) and Chowas (18th to 21st December).
Zainab Ulmulk ( not belonging to the above mentioned tribe), who hails from the royal family of Chitral, was approached repeatedly by the women of her village to utilize their craft creatively.
At a time where hand bags have suffered immensely from the herd mentality of fake designer bags with gauche logos to bags big enough to fit  a doberman in, two women have gone to other extreme and produced something so original, you have to be an ‘original’ yourself to be able to carry them. Zainab Ulmulk and Nadia Malik of Krizmah aren’t shy of taking this risk. Graphic design graduates from the National College of Arts, these young women decided to put their design prowess to use and started their own handbag line.

The brand is associated with Mogh Limited, an NGO that works closely with the cottage industry in Chitral. The expressed purpose of this project is to counter the apparent decline in home-weaving of “Shu”, Chitral’s traditional woollen fabric, the sale of which still provides cash to rural families subsisting in a harsh environment. With over 1,400 women working under them, the NGO also employs women from far-flung areas of Chitral and neighbouring villages.

The name of the brand has an enthralling history and is not a funky twist on the word charisma, as one would normally think, but instead is the name of a type of flower (in the khowar language) A kind of purple Iris. that grows in Chitral around Ulmulk’s ancestral fort. “As children we would weave things out of the krizmah that grew around our home in Chitral. But it also has a special significance since it used to be my grandfather’s official seal,” explains UlMulk of the choice of name for her brand which is as much a commercial enterprise as it is an effort to be socially conscious. “There is no concept of giving back to the community,” bemoans Malik who wants to dedicate a percentage of sales to be invested back in Chitral. At the moment the women are salaried employees of the brand but work according to their own schedules and household commitments on the fabric sent to them. Which is why, it takes up to six weeks to complete one bag on average. A unique pairing of leather and fabric, Krizmah carries an unconventional collection sporting motifs from traditional legends and folk lores. Chitrali artisans use the hand-woven works to celebrate the rich culture and mythology of their ancient kingdom from time immemorial, and each of the handbags tells a tale from the valley.
While one bag narrates the tale of a lost princess, another exquisite bag tells the tale of the famous opium growers in Chitral and how they met their business downfall.  The bags are all handmade and are a testament to the industrious north of Pakistan.
(source:Virtual tourist,pakistannewsblog,

Our inspiration for this piece?

Butterfly Chai

Many an afternoon after finishing their daily chores, women sit around sipping tea under the Chinar tree watching their young one's chasing butterflies fluttering around the wild flowers growing in their garden.
The children quietly stalk their colourful prey proudly displaying the butterflies they catch to their mothers before setting them free to fly into the cool summer breeze once again

Our inspiration for this piece?

After Hours

The ability to see in the dark has elevated Owls, to manifestations of wisdom. Because of their close kinship with the night, owls are also associated with magic and love. Young lovers often swear by the owl to profess the love they have for each other which only the owl has been able to see.



Our inspiration for this piece?

Hashim Bigim - (The disappointed Princess)

A folktale from the Kingdom of Chitral. Hashim Bigim, the beautiful princess of Gilgit, is promised in marriage to the crown prince of Chitral. The young woman undergoes an arduous journey to reach her Prince delighting in imagining her future husband. Will he be as handsome as in her dreams?

Our inspiration for this piece?

Vanishing Pordoom
“Por – doom” (Snow Leopard, in Khowar, a distinct language of Chitral )

The Lord of the Mountain, , the endangered Snow Leopard is now on the brink
of extinction across most of its traditional Himalayan habitat. A few of these
magnificent creatures still roam the rugged terrain of Chitral’s Hindukush
Mountains in search of their ever elusive prey, the Markhor.

 Our inspiration for this piece?

Mastuj Gold

Mastuj, a princely state within the kingdom of Chitral, boasted the finest opium of its time. Fields of poppies that once adorned the Yarkhoon valley of Mastuj, are now no more, after crops were destroyed by farmers to earn a 
meager compensation of a shovel and a pick.

Geelas Paradise

During the summer season cherries are relished by both the human and animal residents of Chitral. Often birds of various colours are seen flitting from tree to tree to enjoy this delightful fruit. The Golden Oriole lords it over the others with its song which sounds like ‘’cherries have ripened’’…” cherries have ripened’’ in the Khowar language.

Our inspiration for this piece?

Tree of Life

A tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. Various trees of life are recounted in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility. Our depiction of the tree of life bears fruits such as pears, apples, peaches and cherries which are grown abundantly in Chitral. The fruit produced by the tree nourishes an ever advancing civilization.
 Our inspiration for this piece?

The traditional annual spring festival of the Kalash people in mid May. It is held to welcome the coming of spring after the severe Chitrali winter. The autumn wine harvest is brought out in generous quantities to celebrate the onset of spring. Through mystical dances and hymns the Kalash turn out in large numbers, in colorful dresses, to pray for an abundance of honey, grapes and walnuts in their valley.

Sitari's dream

Singing, music and dancing is a major part of Chitrali culture. Being a romantic, but yet an extremely conservative society, only the men folk sing and dance, as their women sneak peeks at them from a distance. As they gather under the starry sky, the notes of the sitar carry them away into a carefree dream, as another challenging day draws to an end. The authentic 5 string ‘chitrali sitar’ is a handcrafted instrument, painstakingly carved out of mulberry wood and is a part of all chitrali homes.

Our inspiration for this piece?

Kalash Kopas

Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir, three valleys in Chitral, are home to
the Kalash tribe. The Kalash, people (one of the few surviving pagan tribes) now limited to a mere 3000, have been acknowledged by the Greeks as descendants of Alexander the Greats lost army. The “Kopas” is a traditional head- dress worn
by all Kalash women. Adorned with shells and buttons, always decorated on a black background matching their black kaftan like attire, “Peeran”. One side of the bag depicts the Kopas and the other the Peeran.



Through the Grapevine

A common sight along the narrow mountain streams of Chitral, grapevines adorn the holly, oak and mulberry trees that grow alongside. Wine making and wine drinking is central to the Kalash culture and religion. To catch the sun in the narrow Kalash valleys the vine has to be allowed to grow up to tree tops which ends up as a struggle between the bees and birds above and the people below, to get to the fruit.

Shindoor valley in Chitral is famous for the polo festival held in the world's highest polo ground.


Our inspiration for this piece?


Every summer a fierce battle is played out on the Shandur plateau
where the Hindukush, Pamir and Karakoram ranges meet.
Shandur was the traditional border between the two princely states of Chitral and Gilgit. In days gone by, when they would accuse each other of abducting livestock and womenfolk, Shandur would be the venue where the two local chieftains would meet to iron out differences in heated debates.
Today, each July, in front of thousands of spectators, the two ancient rivals play their hearts out in a furious game of traditional mountain Polo in the same spirit and with the same ferocity as their medieval forbears.



Our inspiration for this piece?


Captain of the Chitral polo team for the last three decades, and grandson of HH Sir Shuja Ulmulk ‘Mehter’ (ruler) of Chitral whose reign lasted 45 years. Each year when Sikander Ulmulk threatens to retire from polo the people beg him for one more year fearing that without him the team will lose the dominance it has enjoyed over arch rival Gilgit in recent years. “Polo renews the bond…” The motif depicted on the bag is commonly found on most Chitrali Chogha's (traditional robe) worn by royalty and common folks alike. Here polo is not the ‘’game of kings’’. The local barber and shoemaker on horseback not only brushes shoulders with his prince but also throws him off his horse or cunningly hooks his mallet from the least expected angle.


L to R: Zainab ulMulk and Nadia Malik


Krizmah Website

Krizmah Facebook Page


PaulinaMo said...

wow the location looks beautiful and the designs look amazing! My favorite is the owl one and also the tree of life one... so pretty. I'm sure the texture is amazing too! Thanks for sharing :)


Fragancia said...

Love the details about kalash i didnt know they were descendants of Alexander! The bags look fantastic thanks for sharing girl :) <3

Yumna said...

Nice blog! Those bags are beautiful. :)

Venus In Virgo said...

I love brands like this! Great post XOXO

ZatZ said...

SO pretty!!! i love the pouches! Very nice :)
Heard all about them when i was in islamabad!

Fakhra's said...

mind blowing, u know it look like another heaven on the earth... really

worth reading and excellent piece of knowledge.

bags are beautiful...:)

Zabrinah said...

Very cool post! I love the designs on the bags (especially the owls)!


Best wishes from one blogger to another,


Su said...

Wow, what a great post! So much culture, so much history and some great inspirations behind the pieces. My fav is the Kalash Kopas, the colourful work on black looks so beautiful :)

Pooja_G said...

Lovely post...the valley is a scenic beauty...and the bags are so colorful!!

ZatZ said...

Rite :P thnks.. this post is missing there

FashionPhD said...

ooh cute! like the owl and leopard ones :)

calicoaster said...

Lovely bags..I liked the second and the last one the most!! :)..and also the leopard one!! :D

Sarah Ali / Glossicious said...

One word !!! STUNNING . Some of these bags are just amazing . I love the creativitivify and concept behind them . You did a great job by sharing this :)

As Frilly Lily said...

Haha, thank you! :D
Ps: love those bags! My favorite is the one with the leopard, the beige one! Awesome ♥

Anonymous said...

These are simply gorgeous and unique creative designs.. ohh Amazing!
I like the concept! And the ladies featured above are Pretty as well.. I love their eyes and brows!

Viya ;) said...

AMAZINNNGGG Post Shazia!! :) Thank you soooo much for this wonderful info.. Its really nice to see women like them helping the tribal women and the way they are exposing this beautiful art to the world! :) The bags and purses are so pretty! I loved the butterfly one! and its so beautiful to see their inspiration or concepts! :) Everything looks sooo earthy and pure :) The tribe is so lucky to live in a picturesque place like that! :)

Glamarama said...

I loved the post!!!!!! All the bags are exquisite but my favourite bag is the brown leather bag.

Aarthi said...

Lovely collecton they hav got..

iheartmexoxo said...

lovely post wonder why this didnt show up on my blog list :(
lovely bags :)

Pandora`s Box said...

@ihearmexoxo it's not your fault. I'm having problem with the reader :(

Shang J. said...

Oh wow what exotic bags. Thanks for sharing. I'd love to get my hands on some of these. And great post girl ♥

Eesh said...

Oh my gosh that looks like such an amazing place!!! Those eyes look amazing.....So beautiful!! And the bags are adorable ;)

Areej Usman said...

WOW ur post reminded my of my trip to Chitral 2 years back when I was there for the Chilam Jusht festival.It was awesome.Those bags are beautiful:)Great post Thanks:)

Mania said...

such an amazing place so beautiful .really interesting and beautiful article, things that I did not know :) always amazing posts from you. I don't know why your post did not show on my sub box very strange have a great weekend dear xoxo

Aiman said...

My God! such a comprehensive post. Its a keeper, kind that is bookmarked and to be shared with friends.
I have a friend from my childhood who belongs to chitral, i will def share the link with her.

sashalovemac said...

well i must say i have seen these amazing bags and also learnt a lot about the culture in Pakistan its fantastic keep it up gal

Venus In Virgo said...

Showing some Friday love. Have a great weekend XOXO!

nayabloves said...

Joshi and Through the Grapevine are my favorites! Excellent post!

Fashion.MakeUp.LifeStyle said...

Gorgeous bags!!! Lovely inspiration

<3 Marina

Shelley said...

Ciao Bella,
What an awesome post!! I loved reading this and the bags that they make are so beautiful, I love them... its nice that the beautiful bags have such specific meaning behind them... each one means something special.
Thanks for the visit to my blog as well... it was great to see you.
Have a really wonderful weekend!!
Hugs & Kisses,

Ezazi said...

The bags stole my heart, literally SWOONING.
Show me to the love button!

Alcina said...

Naice and beautiful!

Rakhshanda said...

All of them are sooo pretty <3

Segments of Life said...

You worked really hard on this post...and it shows! Gorgeous ethnic bags, just love them all!! Keep it up :)

Sara.H said...

WOW!!! Loved them all. Those are so unique and very beautiful. <3 I am amazed. Thanks for sharing :)

Pandora`s Box said...

@segments of life naah I just copied and pasted a lot :)

Thanks everyone for taking out time to read my post.

Mishi said...

aww bags are sooooo coool...and Kelash is one place that I want to visit most..along with Hunza ...sorry I couldnt comment lately....I was reading your its just I couldnt manage time to comment...showie:-(

Anonymous said...

great post I love them all!

Alice x

Maham said...

Love your attempt og gathering the cultural heritage and showing it in here...
the bags are just so orignaly beautiful!!!

and are u serious about chitrali women not singing or dancing?cos I have seen many of them do!

Pandora`s Box said...

@ Mishi no need to be showie hon :) commenting is purely optional.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments

ateeq mughal said...

lol, am a guy but still i adore ur blog
have u tried violet (perfume), it's a women fragrance we, its too seductive.
u have got a brand new male follower. (wink)

Harija said...

Neat post!

Gauri said...

I ♥ the bags!

Following you now :D

Anonymous said...

everything is gorgeous! & I like that we got some background info, another super cool post!!! ^.^

Pyari Beauty said...

Great post.

I love the designs of the bags and purses.

Ifra Khaliq said...

Endless! bags N BAGS. all ARE BEautiful.

Evil Nelly said...

wow, such an ah-mazing post! i knew about the kalash tribes, but their origins from the Greeks have been disputed.( Michael Wood's In the footsteps of Alexander the great) Their European lineage has been discredited through DNA studies too..
i love the handbags, those girls are doing a fabulous job, i would love to buy one of their butterfly themed bags, i am obsessed with them butterflies..

Venus In Virgo said...

Showing some love XOXO

LoveBLOOMs said...

woah, great posts. :)
1) I love learning about new cultures around the world, & the Kalash women & people as a whole.
2)Those handbags are absolutely adroable & very fashionable !
<3 THE BLOG ! :)

Nancy said...

I love the design, it's so cute!!

Sofie said...

thanks for visiting my blog :)
I am hosting my first giveaway,check it out if you like :)

Anonymous said...

how are you? been missing your blog.. hope all is well!

Red Reidinghood said...

These bags are so cute!
Thank you for your lovely comment, dear!


Rekha said...

Lovely collection :) u have a nice blog :) following u now :)


Burcin said...

What a beautiful place! And great idea to incorporate their culture onto the bag's designs. I love the owl and joshi bags!

benish said...

goodness gracious...the bags are to die for..this is something madonna,JLO,rihanna would love to bad our designers don't struggle hard enough to reach international market...i'm glad that something is done for the betterment of these people because a while back i read in an article their traditions are fading.

shahtaj said...

Great post:)

Meredith Jessica said...

Wow!!! The craftsmanship here is INCREDIBLE, and the stories behind the inspiration is as beautiful as the designs and the people. What a great post! :)

aMz88 said...

OMG i want the Snow Leopard :D

Sana said...

i love them all ... great post dear

Naheed said...

Hey girl, Naheed here:) So glad to read this post and I just love the way Kalashi women dress themselves up. I loved those bags and have also hit like Krizmah on facebook. Great job!

Shinaaya said...

Dont you think they are a little over priced? I mean 25,ooo Rs. worth bag and 10k worth wallets are a little too much for our society? :o

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