Shoe manufacturers in Peshawar claim Paul Smith’s design is outdated, should reflect latest fashion.
A new sandal from designer Paul Smith based on a traditional Pakistani style has amused shopkeepers in its “hometown” of Peshawar—both for its $500 price tag and what they say is its outdated look.
Pakistan’s chattering classes took to social media on Monday to berate the fashion house for “stealing” the design of Peshawari chappals for its “Robert” sandal, priced at £300. But in the markets of Peshawar, the northwestern city where the hardy chappal is believed to originate, shopkeepers were more concerned that the British designer known for his signature multicolored stripe was behind the times.
“This design is outdated. Some people in their 60s or 70s ask for that design sometimes,” said Kamran Khalil of the city’s Shoe Shop. The high-gloss black leather, thin sole and open toe of the Paul Smith sandal have long been out of favor in Peshawar, Farhad Ullah, whose family have been making shoes in Peshawar for 70 years, explained. “My father use to make this design but I don’t make it any more as there is no demand for it,” he said. “Only some retired military or police officials come and ask us to make it for them.”
The chappal is ubiquitous in Pakistan, loved by all social classes for its comfort and durability, and normally sells for between $5 and $20. There was astonishment that the Paul Smith version, which comes with a thin neon pink stripe along the side, could cost so much more. “I’d say you’d have to be mad to pay Rs. 50,000 for chappals, when you can get them for 1,500 to 2,000,” said customer Mansoor Khan.
But Zahir Shah, 35, manager of the Style Collection chappal shop in Peshawar, defended the high price tag. “If you want to buy a cricket bat used by Shahid Afridi or Sachin Tendulkar, you have to pay millions for it,” he said. “The price is not high because of the wooden bat but due to the name of Afridi or Tendulkar, and so Paul Smith is selling his name.”
After a day of Twitter outrage and an online petition, the Paul Smith website changed the product description to say the sandal was “inspired by the Peshawari chappal.”
Khalil said Pakistan should be pleased that such a famous designer had been inspired by the traditional sandal—but urged Paul Smith to bring the design up to date. “I am proud that the traditional Pashtun shoe is now available in the west as fashion, but the designers should work more to bring the best and latest designs,” he said.