A chappal ain’t just a chappal

Published: March 19, 2014
Ethically, Smith should have recognised the chappals ‘Peshawari’ merits before christening them ‘Robert’.

Ethically, Smith should have recognised the chappals ‘Peshawari’ merits before christening them ‘Robert’.

Paul Smith’s fashion faux pas broaches an onerous lesson for Pakistan: it takes nothing less than foreign validation for us to value something of our own. Everyone from the Pashtun dwellers in Charsadda to those living in Karachi saw their eyebrows disappear right into the hairlines when the cross-strapped Peshawari chappal was marketed by a British fashion industry bastion as ‘Robert sandals’ for a mighty 300 pounds.

Indeed, Paul Smith had reproduced a Pakistani design, blurring the line between imitation and inspiration. When a Pakistani designer lifted a motif on its lawn collection from a Spanish brand in 2013, tongues wagged, condescending Pakistan’s ‘predilection’ to plagiarism. But creative lifting, it seems is not a Pakistani, or a ‘Third World’ phenomenon. However, having said that, Smith perhaps, does not deserve the jingoistic tirades directed at him owing to two reasons: because he confessed to having ‘borrowed’ the design within 24 hours and because, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan has no ‘copyright’ on the design of the Peshwari chappal. Ethically, Smith should have recognised the chappals ‘Peshawari’ merits before christening them ‘Robert’. But on the other hand, Pakistan is also blameworthy for languishing under the assumption that its cultural symbol was not valuable enough to be pilfered and for taking no measures to prevent such occasion.

Likewise, years ago, Pakistan dilly-dallied in securing a patent for basmati rice which was expeditiously chartered by India, promising to trump one of Pakistan’s prime exports. We don’t build any forts and moats, but unsheathe our sorry patriotic daggers in ‘love for the country’. Officials holding portfolios of culture must do more to secure designs of cultural elements like the Peshawari topi or the paranda. Unless this is done, these garbs hold the status of being strictly functional forms of apparel and will be open to all for inspiration or imitation of any and every kind.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Mirza
    Mar 20, 2014 - 10:47AM

    This design was not patented and there is no need to be upset about. The editorial is rational and we think after the fact. We should be proud that there are old traditional things of ours that the world likes. I am not from KPK and never visited there but I have three of these sandals that I use on special occasions.Recommend

  • Libra
    Mar 20, 2014 - 11:46AM

    Sindhi Ralli, Sherwani, Shalwar, Kohati Chappal, Dhoti worn by Hindus, Lungi by Bengalis ,Jinnah Cap all are not protected through copyright. And not possible to be.

    Good narrative.


  • Musa
    Mar 20, 2014 - 6:58PM

    What kind of stupid rationality is that the design wasnt patented?We should challenge it under their laws for violation of IP.. Patent or no patent and we should prove that this Paul Smith chap plagiarized our designs and he should be held liable for it and then file for damages for the thousands of Chappal makers across the nation!!


  • Iqbal Hussain
    Mar 21, 2014 - 2:57PM

    cultural generally does not follow any patent right, culture itself will speak from where or which continents it belongs. So symbolizing it in international market seems good and a gateway to open market for it.
    I have one same like this when I wear SHALWAR QAMEEZ then I wear it, its a Pakistani tradition and we feel happy to maintain it if anyone wants to follow its okay.


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