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A chappal of two cities: The £300 Paul Smith surprise

Updated Mar 21, 2016 12:16pm
The Peshawari chappal that Paul Smith were selling, without crediting the design to Pakistan. Photo from Paulsmith.co.uk
The Peshawari chappal that Paul Smith were selling, without crediting the design to Pakistan. Photo from Paulsmith.co.uk

Every single Pakistani man has owned a pair of these sandals at some point in his life. If not on a daily basis, then the Peshawari (or Charsadda) chappals are paired with traditional kurtas and worn on formal occasions such as weddings and, well, Eid. It is as much of a part of our national identity as is the chicken tikka in our traditional cuisine. Everyone knows what it is, has worn it, and its love spans through all of the country’s provinces.

This love and admiration for the Peshawari chappal is shared by none other than celebrated English menswear designer Sir Paul Smith who replicated the design as his own, in the market for a whopping £300 — 20 times the cost of the same chappal in Pakistan if bought from an upscale store.

The only bone of contention is that he decided to call them ‘Robert’.

Yes, that’s right, ‘Robert’.

Initially there was no mention of Pakistan, Peshawar or even Charsadda, or any credit given to the region where the design originates from. But in all seriousness, Mr Smith, ‘Robert’ is the best you could come up with?

Understandably, Pakistanis online are in an uproar. Some laugh, some are completely outraged, others are simply hurt. There is even a petition on Change.org demanding that the designer change the name of his sandals to ‘Peshwari chappals’. At the time of writing this, the petition had gathered close to around 50 signatures.

The outcry must have worked on some level because now Robert's description reads as, “Men’s high-shine black leather sandals with neon pink trims inspired by the Peshawari Chappal.”

The name 'Robert' has also been removed from the page, although the url still displays the orginal 'Robert' title.

Pakistani designers speak out

We asked several top Pakistani designers what their initial reaction was when they saw Robert up on display, whether this could be considered ‘stealing’ a design, should Mr Smith have referenced the inspiration from the beginning and if they would spend £300 on buying a pair of Robert vs. the locally-made Peshawari.

Here is what they had to say:


Nomi Ansari


Fashion designer, Nomi Ansari. Fashion designer, Nomi Ansari.

“The initial reaction was just WOW. I felt so proud but sadly realised that we’re the nation which doesn’t know its worth."

"What really made me upset is when I did not see the country, region or culture inspiration mentioned. Instead they’re calling it ‘Robert’ sandals. If they had been Indian sandals, that association would’ve been highlighted in capital letters. It’s not really stealing directly but yes one Pakistan/Peshawar mention would’ve been an answer to many questions being raised now."

"When I can get the best customised, most comfortable and hand made chappals from Gizri for Rs1,500 rupees or $15, I will be the biggest idiot to do that.”

"As I mentioned earlier we’re a one-of-our-kind of nation which doesn’t realise what our worth is and instead of being proud of our culture and heritage we run after anything that has ‘Made is France, UK, Spain, India or USA’ etc written on it. People will definitely take advantage of us being so confused."

"Everyone should send the international media the reference pictures and details of the product its inspiration coming from so at least Pakistan can come on the map of their interest and inspiration."


Munib Nawaz


Fashion designer, Munib Nawaz. Fashion designer, Munib Nawaz.

“In my honest opinion, this like you mentioned, isn’t the first time. Our motifs have been taken for years. Peshawari chappals is a another slap at our faces because we don’t take ownership of our own cultural designs — until some gora does it."

"If we owned the look then they wouldn’t have to give us credit. I don’t think they need to give the geographical credit.”


Adnan Pardesy


Fashion designer, Adnan Pardesy. Fashion designer, Adnan Pardesy.

“Initial reaction was that it’s nothing surprising! It happens all the time. Only this time it just caught the attention of people."

"Why should they mention it, really? We in this part of the world copy or ‘get inspired’ by the western designers all the time, do we mention where we got it and pass as our own? No, so it’s fine to do so. Seriously, it’s not stealing? It’ absolutely fair and Paul Smith has never claimed that he had the most original designs, anyway."

"Maybe I will buy them. I am sure they are of better quality in terms of the materials and I'm sure the comfort factor is there and I might just buy it since our version might just not be comfortable… that’s why I’ve never worn them. They end up doing everything better and obviously they have the market to sell at the prices they do."

"In all honesty designers do mention and talk about their inspiration all the time. Just because someone in West, after all these years, picked up one Pakistani article… I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s not like it will change the face of fashion forever.”


Kamiar Rokni


Fashion designer, Kamiar Rokni. Fashion designer, Kamiar Rokni.

“I thought they were okay. I didn’t love them. I’m sure many cultures have similar designs. And I don’t think it’s stealing if it is a variation on a traditional design.

“I wouldn’t buy them, I am quite happy with my Peshaweri chappals. And I’m sure the reference will come up at some point… but I’m also sure that these chappals have been done before.”


Nadia Hussain Khan


Model and actor, Nadia Hussain Khan. Model and actor, Nadia Hussain Khan.

“My initial reaction was ‘Bloody bas*****!’ In the ideal world perhaps there should’ve been a reference of inspiration but that’s where the sad part is — an international name being attached to something that’s so local and OURS. Now, all of a sudden, people want to go out and buy Peshwari chappals!

“Yes, it’s complete and utter stealing. I’d surely NEVER pay even £50 for this!

“Credit should surely be given, and perhaps some international journalist can point it out as complete highway stealing, but sadly that’ll never happen! It’s our country and the government needs to give and provide more opportunities for trade and development of our local crafts!”


Maheen Khan


Fashion and costume designer, Maheen Khan. Fashion and costume designer, Maheen Khan.

"My first reaction? Pride. Yes, there should have been a mention and acknowledgement of the region it was borrowed from as it's an exact copy and not an inspiration.

"All is fair in the world of fashion, but an acknowledgement would have been nice."

"I certainly would not pay this price to buy Peshawari chappals but it is Paul Smith after all!"

"If the Fashion industry did that — gave credit where it's due, what a perfect world that would be... but the world is not perfect, is it?"


Ahmed Bham


Fashion designer, Ahmed Bham. Fashion designer, Ahmed Bham.

"I thought it was some kind of a joke by internet freaks calling the Peshawari chappal 'Robert', But then I found out it was for real so I was kind of shocked. It was actually a copy without giving any credits to the people who actually own it."

"Of course there should have been some kind of reference for the inspiration behind this complete copy."

"We also take inspiration from the West, like in our jackets, blazers, etc. but we don't give them names like 'Gul Khan' or anything else — a blazer is still a blazer."

"Sir Paul Smith could have given it a name like 'Peshawari Chappal by Paul Smith' instead of naming it 'Robert' as if it's an inspiration from his personal imagination..."

"Without any credits given its 100 per cent stealing."

"I would rather pay my own real local manufacturers and craftsmen than Paul Smith for stealing someone else's hard work and making money out of it."

"Designers from this side of the globe have always given credits to them for taking inspiration, now its time to pay back..."


The writer is a Dawn staffer. Follow her on twitter @madeehasyed.