If you haven’t already heard, Christian Louboutin is suing the house of Yves Saint Laurent for 1 million big ones. His shoes, while famously torturous, are impeccably designed to accentuate the beauty of any foot size. The brand has also remained continually prominent in the media thanks to addicted celebrities. On March 27th, 2007, Louboutin filed a patent on his little red-soled masterpieces. Recently, red suede YSL shoes with matching red soles showed up in department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. This means that Louboutin has pulled out the big guns.
The company is pissed at YSL, solely on the grounds that the shoe causes market confusion. Here’s how I see it: You’re walking down the street and you see a woman (potentially Mary-Kate Olsen, potentially some wobbly blond chicky with a loaded AMEX…who really knows the difference?) and you’re all, “Oh ehm gee, SHOES! Louboutin is totally hot right now!” End of your interaction with the aforementioned footwear.
Let me now paint the scenario that Christian Louboutin seems to be imagining: You see the shoes, and suddenly get the urge to pull out your (as an average college student) totally loaded AMEX. You hobble over to Bergdorf to try that shit on. Actually, they look so hot on the stand that you forget to try them on. You entirely disregard the fact that they’re in the YSL section, and swipe your card so fast you can’t even say hello to Lindsay Lohan who’s itching to tell you all about her latest bad decision. (Oh well, she’ll text you later.) You, just like every other supposedly loyal Louboutin-bitch, have inadvertantly betrayed your god.
Now, let’s rewind. First, I would think if you’re spending thousands of dollars on shoes, you would know which brand you’re buying. Second, if you like a pair of shoes, you won’t put them down just because they’re not your favorite designer. Third, Louboutin has real knockoff issues to worry about, seeing as how you can get a pair of fakes online lickity-split. Lastly, Louboutin (who left school at the age of twelve) clearly needs to learn the meaning of sharing, and have an ounce of respect for his peers.
I don’t like thinking that a color can be patented. It poses an existential question to the fashion industry. Should a designer be able to limit the options for others on such a widespread level? Our boy also sued Carmen Steffens when it opened up a flagship store in Paris across from his. A representative from Steffens commented, “Over the years, we have incorporated almost every color imaginable into our footwear soles including blue, green, pink, yellow. . . . This is what we are about.” According to the Washington Post, of the 250 shoes in Steffens collection, three have red soles. I mean, I understand the cultural significance of the red sole, and how it essentially separated Louboutin from the rest of the shoemakers, but this seems like too much.
As someone who respects the fashion industry immensely, it makes me furious that something so basic as color placement can be owned by one brand. I understand Louis Vuitton and Burberry, due to the specificity of the patterns they use. However, Louboutin’s lawsuit is not only petty, but jeopardizes the creative motion of the fashion industry. Inspiration, design freedom and expression are under attack by litigation. Even if all of this is one big publicity stunt (a popular, and potentially accurate theory) the outcome of this lawsuit can define the future of patents for designers. Somebody call Judge Judy for justice, or I’mma cut someone.
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