Christian Louboutin sees red
How shoe designer Christian Louboutin's signature red soles became a must have, a trademark and finally a law suit.
Ask any fashionista about Christian Louboutin, and the first thing they will remark upon are the signature red soles the French cobbler has made his trademark.
The story goes that Louboutin came up with the idea of giving all his designs a distinctive red, gloss sole in 1992 after painting red nail polish onto the bottom of a pair of shoes, because he felt the shoes "lacked energy". And so, a legend was born and in no time, flashing a red sole became a badge of honour for the fashion pack and Hollywood stars alike.
Like so many labels, it was Carrie Bradshaw, Sex & The City's shoe-obsessed heroine, who made Louboutin a household name, with the designer's New York store even featuring as the opening shot in the first Sex & the City movie. Patricia Field, the franchise's costume designer, was quick to key into the brand's lust-worthy credentials, and eventually Louboutin matched Manolo Blahnik as the object of Carrie's desires, and, ergo, the desires of the legion of female fans of the show.
You can count on one hand the famous ladies who don't own a pair of Louboutin's iconic red-soled heels. How do we know that? Because they are, perhaps, the most instantly recognisable fashion accessory of all time, so much so, Louboutin even trademarked the 'Red Sole' feature in 2008.
So it's no surprise he has taken a hard line against fellow Gallic mega-brand Yves Saint Laurent, who Louboutin feels have unfairly copied his trademark.
Yves Saint Laurent's spring 2011 collection features a pair of red suede shoes with matching red soles, which have prompted Louboutin to file court papers in New York suing them. The collection also features purple shoes with purple soles, navy with navy soles and green with green soles, but it's the red soles that have sparked the legal action.
Court papers state 'The defendants use of red footwear outsoles that are virtually identical to plaintiff's Red Sole Mark is likely to cause and is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public as to the origin of the infringing footwear.'
Could, or should anyone but Louboutin ever make red-soled shoes again? Can you really own a colour? These are the issues that will, no doubt, be hard fought in the New York courts. But the outcome is moot. Louboutin's brand identity is so strong, anyone seeing those Yves Saint Laurent shoes on, would assume they were Louboutin's anyway.