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.

6 Responses to “Steve Madden May Finally Get His Comeuppance”

  1. Fairy Shoe Princess October 17, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    I admit the Steve Madden boot definitely looks like a close replica, but at the same time there’s a huge disparity between those who will pay nearly $1,200 for a boot and those that will pay $100-$150 (or whatever the SM pair was going for). I think McQueen will have to prove that Steve Madden actually affected their business in a negative way by producing this shoe and it could be a landmark case in that they’ll have to define what’s a direct copy and what isn’t. In other words, where do they draw the line?

  2. ShoesLover October 18, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    I like this pair of shoes! the heel is great.

  3. phyllis October 19, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    Not suprising at all coming from a guy who spent 41 months in a federal prison for securities fraud.

  4. Raven1025 October 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    I think a lot of Steve Madden’s shoes fall into the same category as rip-off handbags. His knock-offs seem quite intentionally so, not just inspired by high design, but pretending to be the design.

    Plus, SM shoes are crap. I’ve purchased a few pairs, and all of them have fallen apart in a short time. To the point that I don’t even think you get what you pay for with them. The cost per wearing is ridiculous.

    While I love the McQueen shoes, I would rather not have a pair at all, since I can’t afford his pricetag, than to throw money at SM.

  5. g-dog October 19, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    Seems that just leaving off a logo (like Nike swoop) should not be sufficient to avoid whatever “anti-rip-off” law may apply. On the flip side – it seems like such blatant and shameless copying should be covered by some law…? Just not sure which. The approach by AMcQ is interesting – I hope this has some effect.

  6. La BellaDonna October 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    For the ethically impaired – such as Mr. Madden – it is the difference between seeing the Great Designer Shoe and saying, “I know! This gives me a GREAT idea! If I do this – and that – oh, and I like plum and olive, not solid black – maybe with a Louis heel instead -” and the less costly designer is spinning off into the orbit of his/her own, inspired in turn by someone else’s inspiration; and the seeing the Great Designer Shoe and saying, “I know! This gives me a GREAT idea! Let’s copy this AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE, as closely as possible, and sell as many as we can before the restraining order is written!”

    Two designers of less-expensive shoes, both inspired by a Very Expensive Designer, but the end result, it is very different.