Following the Red Sole Suit

If you have been reading my weekly postings on Washinton Life Magazine‘s Trend Report: Global Fashion Roundup, you will have undoubtedly seen updates on the now infamous Christian Louboutin lawsuit, slapped by Yves Saint Laurent.  In case you have missed it, it can be summarized in three words: Iconic Red Sole.

According to Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Louboutin should not be able to hold a patent on selling a red sole exclusively because as they have pointed out, they have been selling them periodically a lot longer than Louboutin has been around (and went so far as to bring up Louis XVI who periodically had red-soled shoes made).  Although humorous comments have been made about grown men arguing over the color of the sole of a shoe, it’s a serious issue.  According to sources, spies for Louboutin were going to stores and pulling YSL’s shoes off the shelf.  In addition, these soles have been easy to knock off with women PAINTING the bottom of their heels to look like the real thing (or buying faux Louboutins where someone else has done that work for you).  So what comes of this for Louboutin fans and aspirational customers?

Photographer, illustrator and writer – Garance Dore – has taken a new stance on this saying, “I love Louboutin’s designs, and admire their craftsmanship, the identifiable soles actually lessen my interest in owning a pair. At least one of my editors paints their soles black.”  Why?  Because those customers that are true buyers aren’t looking to show off a label – they are going for style.  The question is, how many people will follow suit?  So many aspirational buyers love the iconic red heel but if this suit changes what Louboutin can and cannot do, would you still buy the brand?

My take on this is three things… 1) Louboutin should have looked into a patent for a particular shade of red – that they can do.  Other companies out there have patented their colors, such as the Tiffany Blue.  It’s such a unique shade that it is very hard to get exactly right.  2) Those that don’t like to show off labels already don’t.  In my Washington Life printed fashion issue article for 2011, I stated that although DC’ers may look “boring” in their dark-colored suits, most passersby have no idea what labels these suit-wearers are truly wearing – most are more expensive than you think.  It goes without saying that true customers aren’t paying for the label – they are paying for the style, comfortability (in some cases) and practicality. 3) People love Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik – both touted by Sex and the City for years.  They have nothing iconic about them, other than that they are art.  Really, it comes down to loving the designs for what they are, not what’s “underneath”.