Red Sole Wars: Does Christian Louboutin own the coveted red sole?

You can see a Christian Louboutin shoe a mile away due to the crimson sole of the shoes, a signature look that Christian Louboutin began applying to all his shoes in 1992 – one year after he started the company. However, this signature has come under fire again recently as the Yves Saint Laurent Spring 2011 collection has used his tell-tale red soles and last week Brazilian label Carmen Steffens came under fire.

The use of the red sole is at the heart of all Louboutin shoes, whether stiletto or ballet flat. The eye-catching colour not only makes them easily identifiable as a Louboutin, just like the Tiffany & Co blue or the Valentino Red Dress. The idea for the red soles came after he was admiring red nail polish on women’s fingers and he decided to try painting the sole of one of his shoes red. Louboutin told the New Yorker “The shiny red colour of the soles has no function other than to identify to the public that they are mine. I selected the colour because it is engaging, flirtatious, memorable and the colour of passion.” The red soles are so much a part of the shoe that in 1997 Louboutin registered the design with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Louboutin has takes the use of his red soles very seriously and filed a lawsuit against YSL at the Manhattan Federal court on 7 April. According to ABC news US he is seeking a court injunction against the sale of the allegedly copycat shoes in the U.S. and damages of at least $1 million. However, despite the use of the red sole, the YSL collection also contains shoes in several different colours but that have matching soles in that colour, such as a fuchsia pump and navy sandal. So far YSL have refused to comment on the allegations.

Pictured above: Carmen Steffen’s Red Sole shoe and Peeptoe Shoes’ Red Sole Shoe / Via Facebook

YSL is not the only label to produce a collection with shoes in varying colours with soles to match. Brazilian label Carmen Steffens, who uses supermodel Giselle Bündchen as a muse, has produced red shoes with red soles to match for a number or years. In spite of this fact, last week Louboutin also began legal action against the label. In an interview with the Telegraph (UK) a spokesperson for Carmen Steffens said that it was “surprising that another brand is trying to reserve the rights to any colour. The tones are not the same, and, as catalogues dating from 1996 can prove, Carmen Steffens shoes contain soles of all colours, including red.”

It is important to note that this is not the first time that another designer has tried to use the red sole. In 2007 US company oh…DEER! wanted to release a range of heels with red soles and Louboutin also took them to court. Another example closer to home is that of Peeptoe shoes. In 2009 Peeptoe changed the colour of the soles of their shoes to purple after Louboutin took legal action against them. Proving copyright infringement is very hard and you only have to look a little closer at handbags or shoes to see the sheer volume of fakes and copycats that come from everywhere.

Do you think Christian Louboutin ‘owns’ the red sole shoe concept?

By Katie Hill.

Katie Hill loves writing about fashion from all over the world. A self-confessed shopaholic, she is always seeking out the lastest news and newest trends.

1 Comment

  • Traveller in Time says:

    The business of patenting colours is appalling. The history of coloured soles and heels is just that – history. He should know the history of shoes! If he thinks he has to rely on the colour for his renoun then he has more problems than just the colour of the soles of his shoes.

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