The story of Koel began forty years ago, in a small workshop, tucked away in an inner city neighbourhood, in the city of Karachi. It was here that Noorjehan Bilgrami saw a couple of craftsmen dipping wooden blocks into a tray full of dye, then stamping the block upon fabric to transfer the pattern. It was her first encounter with the craft of block-printing and the defining moment that led to the establishment of her atelier, Koel.
Fascinated by what she saw, Noorjehan learnt to work with the blocks. She first held an exhibition of block-printed fabrics in 1978. The exhibition was a resounding success and soon other designers caught on to the allure of block-printed fabrics, opening the way for skilled workers to return to their traditional profession. Koel has continued to foster the traditional crafts, using hand-woven cloth from hand-spun thread for its products.
Noorjehan developed an interest in natural dyes, and soon Koel textiles took on a soft, luminous and earthy feel, as dyes were extracted from plants, minerals, and other natural sources.
From a range of cotton fabrics to formal wear in chiffons and silk, Koel fabrics continue to reflect their founder’s belief in staying true to the essence of nature and in aiming for abiding quality over quantity.