Arts, Culture & Media

Is British designer Paul Smith's sandal a $595 knockoff?

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British designer Paul Smith's shoe sells for $595 — but it bears a striking resemblance to a much cheaper Pakistani sandal.

Is this a sandal or a chappal?

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

British fashion designer Paul Smith has a new shoe in his spring line that looks distinctly like a traditional sandal worn in Pakistan and much of south Asia — known as a chappal.

The Pakistani version sells for about $5. Paul Smith's version is selling for $595. 

These Pakistani sandals sell for just a few dollars and are worn by millions of people in Pakistan.

"The first thing that came to my mind was '$600? You've got to be kidding me,'" said Bina Shah, a writer and columnist based in Karachi. "And the second thing that came to my mind was cultural appropriation."

Shah wrote a blog post about the Paul Smith sandals.

"At first Paul Smith called the sandal the 'Robert' sandal," said Shah."Believe me, we have no Pakistanis indigenously named Robert. So this started to spread on Facebook. I think I saw it on my brother's Facebook page and then it got to Twitter and I saw it again."

The strong online reaction seemed to have had an impact.

"What changed on the website was that Paul Smith changed the name of the sandal from 'Robert' to 'patent-leather strapped shoe'," said Shah. "And also added the line 'inspired by the Peshawari chappal.'"

But in the markets of Peshawar, where the chappal originates, shopkeepers seem more concerned that the British designer was behind the times.

“This design is outdated. Some people in their 60s or 70s ask for that design sometimes,” Kamran Khalil of the city’s Shoe Shop told AFP.

Paul Smith's representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

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