Pride and pique as Louboutin takes Pakistan chappal global
PESHAWAR - AFP
Famed for luxury red-soled stilettos, French shoe designer Christian Louboutin has taken inspiration for a new sandal from Pakistan's tribal frontier, sparking claims of cultural appropriation along with grins from grizzled Pakistani cobblers.
A post on Louboutin's Instagram last month announcing the release of the shoe sparked a social media frenzy in Pakistan, with fans praising the latest homage to the country's rich artisan traditions and critics rolling their eyes.
The "Imran," a flamboyant sandal complete with metal studs along with splashes of orange and silver, is inspired by the country's traditional Peshawari chappal, according to the fashion house.
The chappal has long been a staple for ethnic Pashtuns from ordinary laborers to the country's political elite in Pakistan's northwest.
The sandal is distinguished by its overlapping leather strips that cover the foot and has a small heel with a hardy rubber sole.
Louboutin's version was named after famed Pakistani contemporary artist and friend of the designer, Imran Qureshi.
While most celebrated the shoe's debut, others jeered at the thought of paying designer prices -- Louboutins often retail for upwards of $500 -- for the ubiquitous sandals, which can cost as little as $5.50 in Pakistan.
Some social media users also suggested that the European brand was the latest perpetrator of cultural appropriation.
"Highly recommend asking your friend to rename it though, so that it doesn't become another culturally appropriated thing," wrote Instagram user Mehreenfkhan under a post by Qureshi about the shoe.
Louboutin later removed the Instagram announcement, saying the sandal was just the latest creation expressing his "love for embellishments from different cultures" and was sorry some people felt "offended."
"My designs often pay tributes to artisanship, craftsmanship, traditions or various cultures," Louboutin said in a statement. "The world and its diversity has always been the core of my work."
The chappal is no stranger to controversyIn 2014, British designer Paul Smith released a sandal that looked strikingly similar to the chappal with no initial mention of the Pakistani shoe, sparking fiery protests online and in the press in Pakistan.