$595, artisans, ‘Robert’, base, blue-fin trout, British, celebrities, chappli kababs, democracy, designer, developing countries, footwear, global corporations, headlines, inspiration, irrigation, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, literati, naswar, neon, Pakhair Raghlay, Pashtho greeting, Paul Smith, Peshawari chappal, pink, pride, profits, publicity, railways, recognition, sandal, stripe, Subcontinent, Tariq Ziad Khan, unlicensed, website
The British often boast, with some merit, that they brought democracy, irrigation, railways and the blue-fin trout to the Subcontinent. Recently it seems they decided to take something back in terms of inspiration.
The world famous British designer Paul Smith launched a new $595 sandal called ‘Robert’. The sandal is identical to the ubiquitous Peshawari chappal, that hallmark of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), with the exception of a pronounced pink neon stripe around the base of the shoe. The launch had many a nationalist up in arms claiming that nothing screams “Pakhair Raghlay” (a Pashtho greeting) more than naswar, chappli kababs and the Peshawari chappal.
In Pakistan, there has been a diverse reaction to this unintended export of our iconic footwear.
Many people are of the opinion that the design used by Paul Smith is of the classical Peshawari chappal which is now outdated and the local sandal now has more contemporary style renditions. They point out that even with the pink neon stripe, Paul Smith’s Robert is woefully out of step with the latest trends in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistanis with a more assertive nationalistic outlook claim that this unlicensed inspiration is yet another example of how artisans of developing countries work for a pittance, while the real profits are reaped by global corporations.
For most Pakistanis however, it is a matter of pride and recognition. Many Pakistani celebrities and literati, while reacting to the news, claimed that it was great that something positive had made headlines about Pakistan. They just wished that the origins of the Robert from KPK would be acknowledged.
Paul Smith seems to have taken note of the publicity whirlwind. The company added a descriptor to the Robert on its website stating “Men’s high-shine black leather sandals with neon pink trims inspired by the Peshawari chappal”, which soon went viral.
– Tariq Ziad Khan
First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 23, 2014.