Founded in the early 1990s by Farhana Asad in Peshawar, Pakistan, the Lél collective is dedicated to preserving and re-interpreting the 16th century Italian and Mughal art of Pietra Dura or Parchin Kari.

The art of pietra dura ‒ also referred to as parchin kari in South Asia ‒ originated out of the ancient Roman opus sectile technique, later finding not only its revival but also reaching its highest pinnacle of development in the hands of the Florentines during the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century. To them, this act of the meticulous cutting and fitting of stones into intricate and exquisite forms was synonymous with the act of painting ‒ ʻpainting in stoneʼ. Within the century, pietra dura would find its spread extending to Russia, Iran and across the South Asian region, into Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, under the patronage of the Mughals.

Lélʼs founder, Farhana Asad, became fascinated by the technique when she came across an exquisite box in a bazaar in northern Pakistan 30 years ago. She eventually tracked down its maker, an Afghan craftsman who agreed to give her lessons in the technique in her garage at home. Ever since, the Lél artist collective that Asad founded has opened its doors to both local craftsmen and those escaping the war and worked to preserve the craftʼs knowledge and skills for future generations.

Three decades later, the collective that Asad had founded in her garage at home would attain global recognition for the stone master pieces she has created and her innovation within the art form- whereby she merges Pietra Dura with other ancient techniques such as Cloisonné, Scagliola, Verré Eglomisé and the more contemporary Resin Art.

It would also set the path for and inspire a whole generation of artists and designers after her, including her daughter Meherunnisa- a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore and Pratt Institute, NYC. Meherunnisa now heads the collective as artistic director and is an awardee of the Gates Foundation.

Lél has exhibited at major shows including PAD Paris, London Design Biennale, Design Miami, Milan Design Week, London Design Fair, Sharjah Art Week, Dubai Design Week and featured in leading publications such as the Financial Times, Asia Society, Vogue, Elle Decoration, Architectural Digest and Harper’s Bazaar.