Ready To Wear: As high profile fashion spats go, this one's to die for


Susannah Frankel
Monday 22 August 2011 00:00 BST

You can't beat a good fashion feud: Versace and Armani, Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney, Hubert de Givenchy and just about anyone...

Christian Louboutin's US attorney, Harley Lewin of McCarter & English made the statement "We're going to fight like hell" following the failure to obtain a preliminary injunction barring Yves Saint Laurent from selling red-soled shoes that Louboutin claims infringes his copyright.

The hero of the hour must surely be Manhattan judge Victor Marrero, the man responsible for ruling against the footwear designer and whose take on the case was nothing short of magnificent.

"Fashion designers and painters both regard themselves, and others regard them, as being engaged in labours for which artistic talent, as well as personal expression as a means to channel it, are vital," Women's Wear Daily reported him as stating.

He went on to argue that any restriction of colour was potentially detrimental both creatively and commercially. It would be like Pablo Picasso trying to sue Claude Monet for using an indigo too close to the "colour of melancholy" that defined the former's Blue Period Marrero suggested.


More seriously, the case is of interest not only because of the raised profile of both names but also this is the first time anyone in fashion has taken legal action over an issue quite so non-specific as the use of a particular colour.

If brands including Burberry and Louis Vuitton spend millions restricting the copying of their famous check and monogram respectively – the fraudulent use of both is ubiquitous – the fact that Louboutin was awarded a patent for his red lacquer sole in 2008 is unprecedented.

Equally, given that it is today not uncommon for entire designer looks to be plagiarised by manufacturers of fast fashion before the originals are even available, the case seems a little far-fetched.

Red soled shoes, as lawyers at Yves Saint Laurent were quick to point out when the story broke in the spring of this year, have been used in fashion since the reign of Louis XIV. Still, given the amounts of revenue potentially involved, it's small wonder that the powers that be at Louboutin are up in arms and that their counterparts over at YSL can barely stifle their smugness.

And this is only the first hurdle.

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