Red soles in the sunset
If there’s one thing I’ll bet my booties on, it’s that I’ll never own a pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks.
I’m not quite to the point where the only shoes in my closet are Naturalizer and New Balance, but I have been pretty much committed to comfort for nearly 30 years.
So I guess that rules out Christian Louboutins, as well.
I guess I’m just not one of those “if the shoe fits, wear it” types, who’ll wear it even if wearing it means you’ll risk toppling over, destroying your feet, and end up as a permanent fixture in the podiatrist’s office. I definitely put my foot down on the side of “if the shoe fits and it’s wearable, wear it.”
So unless Christian decides there’s gold in them thar nursing homes and comes up with an orthopedic line, or maybe some slipper socks, I will never don a pair of his trademarked red soled shoes.
On the other hand, if Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) prevails in the trademark case that Louboutin has lodged against it, then maybe those Naturalizers will be sporting red soles, too, some day.
For those who are even more manqué on the fashionista front than I am, and those who have completely given themselves over to the Naturalizer way of life, Louboutin makes dizzying high, dazzlingly sexy shoes known for their bight red soles – so precious that you can order special clear covers to protect them. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would actually need to protect the soles of these (non-Hush) puppies, given that anyone wearing them would have to be carried around on a sedan chair from place to place in order to get around.
The only Louboutins I’ve ever seen in “real life” – and they may well have been faux – were on a young woman who was being quasi-carried by her boyfriend as she attempted to hobble her perilous way across the bricks the surround the Old State House. Forget saving her soles, those spike heels wouldn’t last a nanosecond in the cracks between the bricks. (I know a bit whereof I speak. When I did wear high heels, I was always catching the heels in the sidewalk, which necessitated a costly heel covering repair. After a few of those, I smartened up and started wearing flats while walking to and fro, and carting my heels with me. Then I really smartened up and stopped wearing towering, teetering high heels.)
Louboutin has been using the red-lacquered soles to brand his shoes for the past twenty years. And it’s paid off:
Today the puckish Frenchman is the biggest star in high-fashion shoe design, selling about 240,000 pairs a year in America at prices ranging from $395 for espadrilles to as much as $6,000 for a “super-platform” pump covered in crystals. The revenue of his company, Louboutin, is forecast at $135m this year. (Source: The Economist.)
Then YSL came out with a red soled shoe of their own, part of a monochrome shoe design. Louboutin cried foul trademark infringement, but the judge refused to allow an injunction to prevent YSL from selling its wares, noting that you shouldn’t be able to trademark a color. Now the judge is weighing whether to cancel Louboutin’s trademark – granted in 2008 – in its entirety.
The judge noted that fashion trademarks are allowable, but not for a plain old color. It would have to be something like the Burberry plaid.
I’m no trademark attorney, but it does strike me that the Louboutin red sole is as distinctive as the Burberry plaid. On the other hand, if YSL wants to make shoes that are entirely monochrome, in multiple colors, right down to the sole, I don’t see how they will be mistaken for a Louboutin.
Can’t we all just get along?
Louboutin has indicated that they’ll pursue the case to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Meanwhile, if you want a pair of nifty red soled shoes, but you don’t want to drop $395 on espadrilles, there’s an enterprising Irish teenager – Tara Haughton – who sells kits that let you decorate your soles. They come in a number of colors and designs, including an ultra-cute red and white polka dot one. Wonder how they’d look on my New Balance cross-trainers?
Better order soon. Louboutin will no doubt be coming after Tara’s company, Rosso Solini, which I suspect doesn’t have quite the deep pockets that YSL does.
See yez in court! I’ll be the one in the back row in the comfy shoes.