Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. What do you call a high-end designer bag that's on sale on the streets of Manhattan for just a fraction of the cost. Either a knockoff or stolen. But if a designer produces a sandal that looks almost exactly like the one worn by millions of people in Pakistan and sells it for a hundred times the original's price, that's called au couture. Paul Smith knows. The posh English menswear designer has replicated the design of the chappal. It's a sandal worn by Pakistani men. You can find a pair in Islamabad for about $5 or $6. Paul Smith's version? $595. The model went on sale Monday and since then, Paul Smith has been getting a drubbing online. Bina Shah is a writer and columnist based in Karachi. She wrote a blog about the Paul Smith sandals. So when you first saw these designer sandals, what did you think Bina?

Bina Shah: The first thing that came to my mind was "$600? You've got to be kidding me," and then the second thing that came to my mind was cultural appropriation.

Werman: Describe the chappal. What did they look like and how much do they actually look like Paul Smith's sandals?

Shah: Well, it's really funny. They look identical except for the shiny patent leather finish, which Peshawari shoemakers have since deemed an outdated design but except for the little pink trim that Paul Smith has added to the front of the shoe, pretty much you'll see that everywhere all over Pakistan.

Werman: So Paul Smith did the patent leather version. So since his shoe went up on Paul Smith's website on Monday, something curious happened. What changed?

Shah: Well, at first Paul Smith called the sandal "the Robert sandal." Believe me, we have no Pakistanis indigenously named Robert. This started to spread on Facebook, I think I saw it on my brother's Facebook page, and then it got to Twitter and then I saw it again. What changed on the website is that Paul Smith changed the name of the sandal from "Robert" to "patent leather strapped shoe" and also added the line "inspired by the Peshawari chappal."

Werman: Is anybody saying in Pakistan that it's complimentary that a well known fashion designer in London would make a version of this very popular sandal.

Shah: Some people are saying that, absolutely, but they're in a minority.

Werman: Does anybody care that it's now the height of London fashion?

Shah: I'd have to see sales figures before I could agree with that assessment but I think people are interested, they're a little intrigued. Some are flattered, some are quite annoyed at the idea that Paul Smith could take something that is available across Pakistan and really, the question is that it's indigenously produced by shoemakers and he would take it and claim that it's his own design, not giving any credit where it's due.

Werman: How do Pakistanis wear this shoe? Is it a dress shoe?

Shah: It's not a dress shoe, it's a casual, everyday shoe. It's worn with the shalwar kameez but people wear it with jeans as well. It's a comfort shoe and the interesting thing is that I've heard that shoemakers make the really rugged ones out of the bottoms of used tires.

Werman: From what you hear from Pakistani men, do they find it comfortable?

Shah: They love it. Everybody has at least one pair in their wardrobe.

Werman: Although I suspect not many people are going to fork out $600 for Paul Smith's version of their shoe?

Shah: Everybody is telling Paul Smith to just come over to Islamabad and buy them for himself.

Werman: There's a photo of $6 chappals and Paul Smith's $600 chappals at our website, PRI.org. You can check them out there. Bina Shah, thanks very much.

Shah: Thank you.