Steve Madden May Finally Get His Comeuppance

Manolo says, as the long-time readers of the Manolo know, the Manolo has long deplored Steve Madden’s unethical practice of knocking off the famous shoes of more talented and competent designer.

Previously the Manolo has complained about Steve Madden ripping off the Balenciaga, and, in the especially egregious instance, ripping off the Christian Louboutin and Saks.

It appears that someone has finally decided to take the unoriginal Mr. Madden to court over the matter of the shoe knocking off, and that someone is Alexander McQueen.

The Manolo’s internet friend Susan, of the always interesting Counterfeit Chic blog has the story.

Steve Madden copies creative shoe designers so frequently and so, well, faithfully that it’s often quicker to identify the few changes than to catalog all of the similarities. In this case of the Seryna bootie (below right), only the substitution of a plain zipper pull and a few minor details of construction (quality of materials, sharpness of the foldover points) give away the game.

Alexander McQueen & Steve Madden...Original and Knockoff

The real difference this time around, however, is that the knocked-off designer hasn’t accepted being K.O.’d — and the next round will take place in federal court.

But wait, you say, U.S. law doesn’t protect clothing designs against copying. Hence Steve Madden’s apparent business strategy: copy everything from sole to shoelace, but avoid the legally secured trademark.


For Alexander McQueen, this means noting that Faithful devotees have included Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen, Rihanna, and the photographers who fall at their feet. Surely, the argument goes, such extensive editorial notice has established a link in the public mind between design and designer sufficient to qualify for trade dress protection. Time — and the Southern District of New York — will tell.

Let us sincerely hope that Alexander McQueen prevails in this case against Steve Madden.

It is not that hard to design the interesting shoe that has been inspired by the more famous model. Indeed, if the recent gladiator sandal mania has taught us anything it is that even the more modest brands can produce worthy shoes using the famous designs as their starting point. This is how the system is supposed to work: the famous designers lead the parade, with the down-market brands providing their takes on these trends, but at the more reasonable prices. It is the perfectly legitimate and ethical practice, one that encourages even the most modest team of designers to use their creative abilities.

Steven Madden’s practice of producing the nearly exact replica (sans the identifying logo) is lazy, unseemly, and unethical, and it must end forthwith.