Haute Macabre : Alexander McQueen Knockoff Fail | Haute Macabre

Alexander McQueen Knockoff Fail

I’m sure all of you remember our excitement back in August when we discovered the Steve Madden Seryna bootie knockoff of Alexander McQueen’s Faithful.  I didn’t pre-order mine, so instead, yesterday I stopped into a Madden shop and found a pair on display.  Sadly, just as a sales clerk was about to grab me a pair in my size, the store manager swooped out of nowhere and literally grabbed them out of my hand, stating, “These have been discontinued and are no longer available for sale”.

Why?

‘Cause McQueen is suing the pants off of Madden for the nearly identical knockoff.

image via Counterfeit Chic
image via Counterfeit Chic

The detailed complaint isn’t yet available online, but alleges that the Madden version is a “studied imitation” and “…The only design element of the ‘Faithful bootie’ that Madden did not deliberately copy is the zipper pull that contains the ‘Alexander McQueen’ trademark,” McQueen’s lawyers have been quoted saying.  A cease and desist letter was sent to Madden in September, but no reply from Madden’s reps have been publicized.

I understand the point behind design protection, but from a personal standpoint, I’m always grateful for the knockoffs.  Personally, I can’t afford thousand dollar and up shoes (even the $120 Maddens would have been stretching my budget right now), and I’m pretty sure most of you guys can’t, either.

30 Comment

  1. Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I’m experiencing problem with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting equivalent rss downside? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  2. I personally think that when a particular style is in fashion, everyone copies it in one way or another. Why should all the elite and wealthy get to wear whats “hot”? I don’t have $1,500 dollars to drop on a pair of shoes but I would love his angel wing ones just the same. If someone would make them for a fraction I would buy them all day long. I mean really, if he’s that mad that SM is capitalizing off of his idea then maybe he should consider making some that the general population, you know, the rest of the world, can afford.

  3. Laura sounds like a real d-bag, goody two shoes… ” if you can’t afford $60.00 shoes, other things need to be addressed in your life” If you are spending hundreds of dollars on shoes – your a d bag. People are so shallow and pretentious… if someone wants to make a similar shoe… who cares… it happens all the time. I think people get upset bec. they look like a- holes who paid way too much money for something that everyone can afford. Therefore, these peole don’t feel “superior” or “special” or “exclusive” anymore becasue other people can now afford similar things. Well I say go ahead Steve Madden.. thanks for all the awesome lool alike shoes. Screw you LAURA

  4. With knockoffs in the fashion industry, the deal is, if you change 7 things about the item they can’t touch you. These could be really minor changes such as stitch size or seam type.

    If SM is getting sued it means that the shoe is almost identical as most of the time fashion moves too quickly for designers to bother with such incidents. The whole industry is based on copying from the catwalk anyway.

    In my opinion, knockoffs within the same price range are totally pointless. If your objective is making something affordable I can begin to understand it.

    Taking inspiration from things around you however is good and designers being too precious about their influences stops fashion from moving on.

  5. Respectfully, I have to disagree. Knock offs are out of line. Paying homage to an inspirational source or idol, however, is a different story.

  6. I design software products for a living. It’s REALLY easy to steal my ideas. Look at the Web site, see what looks good to you, and go replicate it. It’s VERY difficult to do anything about it. It doesn’t make it okay.

    Regardless of whether I agree with McQueen’s pricing, I don’t get to use that as an excuse to steal intellectual property. From an ethical perspective, Madden’s theft is no different than if I walked into a boutique and stole the boots themselves.

  7. Simply put, designers CAN make shoes accessible… if they want to.
    No, not everyone can afford the high-end, but that doesn’t mean that people who aren’t rich aren’t allowed to look chic; comments like that are incredibly ignorant.

    In the world of fashion there will always be knockoffs. Personally, I think the more affordable designers should get more creative. This works in everyone’s favor; because if the “big” designers knock them off, then the little guy wins and we actually get affordable shoes.

    More designers should do what Alice + Olivia are doing for Payless.

    Fashion shouldn’t be limited, it should be accessible. If you think it should be limited, then you probably have so little originality in your own personal style that you feel threatened by it becoming more accessible to other people.

    Louis Vuitton bags used to be a status symbol; now anyone can buy one in Chinatown.

    If designers don’t want to be knocked off they should be more innovative…and companies should hire more cutting-edge designers (I say this as an unemployed fashion design graduate). If you someone has a problem with people wearing knockoff versions of their expensive designer wardrobe made then they should go to design school… and have everything you wear be custom-made.

    On a side note, I think McQueen’s collection for Target was a total insult. If he truly cared about making his fashion accessible he would have come up with some better ideas. And, if he didn’t want to be knocked off, maybe he should have scored a deal with Payless and made some shoes instead of that nightmare for Target.

  8. I was lucky enough to pre-order them and get them shipped out before all the brouhaha. I take no side on the debate but I do hope that I can ruthlessly manipulate the situation and inspire a bidding way on ebay!

  9. These are all really good comments. What I find most interesting about the Steve Madden debate is that no one ever mentions that not only is he known for ripping off other artists, he is also a convicted felon. In 2002, he was convicted of stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud and sentenced to 41 months in prison. http://siouxsielaw.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/once-again-everyone-misses-the-importance-of-the-skull-zipper-pull-and-oh-yeah-steve-madden-sucks/.
    Interestingly, I can’t help but wonder if the new McQueen collection is a direct consequence of this fiasco. His new shoes are crazy!

  10. It’s been interesting to read this conversation… I’m kind of a latebloomer into *fahhhsion*, and I didn’t know until recently that the shoes I buy are just recycled designs from the shoes that go down the runway. I guess I just thought all companies actually had creative design teams?! I was naive to be sure.

    I think it’s tricky to take the same principles as you would apply to art and put them on fashion design. Fashion is an industry, on a much larger scale than any other art. Paintings don’t drive the economy. I don’t really think a designer should take issue with a cheap, low-quality knock off of their product considering that the fashion industry would not exist without the masses that buy the cheap versions in Midwest shopping malls (and then swing by CVS on the way home to buy the Vogue full of advertisements of the real thing they can’t afford).

    Ideally we wouldn’t have mass-production at all and instead local design houses where we could buy directly from the artists.. They would be on the same street as the open-door-policy photography studios and painting cottages in the Art-City of my Dreams.

  11. @Assh:

    Let’s see a post about high-fashion copyright infringement, high-fashion knockoffs a la Prada, or the like, and I’m sure that your need for topical clarity will be realized. No one is arguing that Steve Madden has pioneered the knockoff industry – no one is claiming that it’s unique to mid-lever brands. Unfortunately, this post IS about Steve Madden. So that’s why he’s being addressed instead of the modicum of designers who have ever knocked anything off ever. Perhaps you should guest post, or take a visit to counterfeitchic.com.

  12. Maybe I am old school or grew up too poor for the fashion elite, but $60 for a pair of shoes is a lot of money when it can go to my various other hobbies.

    I am completely aghast that I am “undeserving” because I am a young gal working an admin job in a struggling economy and doesn’t live off credit cards (not a single one to my name). I am an artist, musician, what-have-you, and to think I can’t express myself because I am undeserving? Bah. I’m going to show up to the next party I attend wearing my cheap black platform booties I purchased from Ross with my thrifted tux jacket and know I look amazing.

    Assh is spot on. All artists steal from other artists. Just ask Kanye. I’ld say to ask all the dead famous guys, but there’s enough historical fact to prove they stole from their counterparts as well.

    I don’t even like SM shoes anyway.

  13. Oh, my, I forgot how angry people got when HM posted these sorts of things.

    The honest truth about the knock off/original debate is that nothing in fashion is unique, and to claim it at such is negligent and ignorant of the truth of where designers find their inspiration. Take Rick Owens, for example. Every designer this season has knocked off his previous lines, yet you don’t see him going after his fellow designers for it. He decided instead to be flattered and to be inspired to work harder. All of you claiming the ethical high ground are completely off base when it comes to the fashion world, because at it’s highest end they are well known for taking, stealing, re-imagining, and purposeful knocking off of their fellows, yet we don’t hold Gareth Pugh or Balenciaga or Balmain to an ethical debate.

    Why on Earth should we subject Madden to the type of scrutiny we wouldn’t dream of laying at the feet of Miuccia Prada? Because she is of the elite? Because she’s ‘original’? She’s not. No one is. Fashion cannibalizes at all levels. Isn’t that a but heavy handed just to allow the highend to rip off, but when you over it to the rest of society, it just isn’t acceptable? That stings of the type of pathetic elitism and stratification that does nothing but turn people away from fashion in the first place.

    And to the comment that people know they’re knockoffs, the point isn’t for me to be able to say they’re McQueens or what have you and get away with it, but to be able to match whatever outfit I have in mind. I doubt anyone who contributes to this blog goes out of their way to continuously label drop.

  14. You know what I find the most interesting about these comments, is not the intellectual property debate but this idea of who ‘deserves’ what. The comments go from “if you can’t afford it you don’t get the look” to “if you have to buy a knock off to get your look power to you” but none of it goes to the basic question, who is he selling these shoes to?

    Most income from design houses comes from their perfumes and smaller mass market sales, they do not want us commoners to ‘attain’ their products except for the low end so that we strive for the ‘buy in’ to the lifestyle by laying down $50 for perfume that will somehow associate us with wealth and finer things, and that small minority of people who do buy all designer goods are actually NOT who is keeping them in business. It is us who pay the $50 for the perfume. SO it is not that there is a loss of income because the people who would never buy their shoes do not buy their shoes, it is a tear in the ideal that those of us should be striving (and failing) to attain, if we are not failing to attain it, then we are not buying into the ‘dream’ of attaining the goods (as in buying their perfume).

    I wonder what power structure are we supporting when we say we are on the side of the designer? I am not judging either side, but I wonder if we are looking at the larger picture here.

    It was a bit shocking to hear things like “if you can’t afford $1500 you don’t deserve these shoes” interesting, it is true that we do not deserve any luxury product, however the baiting of poor people on behalf of these designers by means of mass marketing in drugstore magazines, is getting them to buy perfume based on this low end buy in to an elite class. The “not deserving” is part of the hook, it is how this system works, the shoes were never meant to belong to anyone or to be deserved by anyone.

    I like this blog a lot especially its respect for fashion and the goth/punk aesthetic but remember where the aesthetic came from, don’t let them sell your own culture back to you at 80x the price.

  15. @Elle,
    “Additionally, nothing should ever be justified because “Welp, you’re the minority, ethical folks. Guess you lost the war!” That’s such BS. ”

    My comment wasn’t about justification, but about the reality of the situation. I’m simply pointing out what’s going on, and why knockoffs aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

  16. I’m very ambivalent about this subject. As a designer, I would want my intellectual property protected. Ideas are invaluable.
    However, I feel that without knockoffs, the haute and more exotic fashions remain reserved for the top tier of society. Fashion is for everyone, and isn’t our society stratified enough?
    I don’t know how to feel D:

    I also feel bad that the sales manager ripped the shoes from your arms. I went “OH NOOO!” Hahaha. Like someone trying to steal your baby! Teehee.

  17. Additionally, nothing should ever be justified because “Welp, you’re the minority, ethical folks. Guess you lost the war!” That’s such BS. This is the second time I’ve commented on HM, really disappointed that a bunch of folks with obvious alternative lifestyles are backing something because “we just can’t do anything about it! we’re the minority.”

    C’mon. Imagine what you could do with your following if you spoke out on knockoffs.

  18. I can’t say that I agree with you here. No, I can’t afford Alexander McQueen shoes. I can’t, it’s a fact. But I respect the designer and his creativity enough to NOT support people who are trying to profit off another artist’s design.

    As a blog full of writers who, themselves, are independent artists, I’m kind of surprised by your viewpoint on intellectual property and the respect it deserves.

  19. I’ve never really made up my mind on the whole knock-off vs. designer issue, as I want the look, and I dislike having higher realms of fashion that may be forever out of my reach…even if I can some day afford a designer wardrobe, it’s not something that’s going to apply to something I would buy with frequency such as high heels. At the same time, I can understand the right of the designer to hold complete rights to his own work.

    Whereas I would assert the right of the designer in any other artistic field, I think the reason I feel differently about fashion is because there’s a new collection every season, sometimes more, and after that one collection the designers often never revisit that collection again. They create so much that has such a short life-span that I really don’t see the point in then confining it from the public when the designer will have moved on from it in six months.

    Also, I get that it was probably just badly worded, but are his lawyers trying to imply that his trademark is a skull? I think that’s way too ubiquitous a symbol to be called a trademark, regardless of the fact he uses it on about everything he makes.

  20. “It’s beyond a “look”. It’s about ethics.”

    Unfortunately (or fortunately-depending on who you are in this equation) you are in the minority. If the mass-market cared, there wouldn’t be a mass market for these knockoffs. They exist out of necessity and opportunism-distilled down in to one word: demand.

    More people demand that design in a more affordable package than demand that people only purchase the original design. That’s what I’m trying to point out when I say they want the look.

  21. wow… didn’t mean to touch such a nerve.
    I will always stand firm in my belief that a person’s intellectual property is their own. You work hard to reach the top of the ladder, like McQueen, and have some lazy design team steal your ideas and make money off of your hard work… is this right?
    Yes, there are a ton of smaller designers out there that are less expensive and we should all support them. They get ripped off too. Urban Outfitters is notorious for stealing independent designers’ ideas for t-shirts, and just because they change where a stripe is, does that make it any less wrong? Steve Madden is notorious for doing the same thing and this is why I don’t support the label.

    Yes, fashion is for everyone and if you care about it, you should also care about being original, living within your means and making your own personal style decisions. If that means wearing a knockoff then more power to you.

    I too will worry about paying my bills before I would ever drop more than even $500 on a pair of shoes, and I will also do without a certain look if that means I’m lining the pockets of label that steals others’ ideas. It’s beyond a “look”. It’s about ethics.

  22. Steve Madden SHOULD be sued! That is a blatant ripoff! If you can’t afford it, then you can’t have it. Fashion isn’t a right, it isn’t owed to you. Steve Madden is a thief.

  23. Alternatively, some might believe spending 1155.00 on a pair of shoes might an indication of some strange priorities. =/

    I noticed those, and though I can afford the Madden’s, and I *could* afford the McQueen shoes, I wouldn’t ever purchase the McQueen shoes. I’d rather pay off my car or put it towards saving for a home.
    Without question it’s a knockoff, and without question it’s not the same quality, but I seriously doubt it’s hurt McQueen’s sales any-those that are purchasing the shoe from SM aren’t ever going to be able to afford the 4 figure price tag but want the look. If it was a jacket, I’d probably just MAKE it at my home, but I can’t make shoes. So I’d have to purchase them. If people purchase shoes to impress others, then yes, people will point out that they are knockoffs, but if you just want cool looking shoes-they are probably going to get the SM ones.

    I had thought there wasn’t any legal precedent for apparel as long as it doesn’t carry the logo of another company, but I’m not scholar on copyright in regards to fashion/apparel.

    It’s wrong to rip something off and pass it off as another’s design, but I didn’t hear too much crying when Sam Edleman’s shoes ripped off… who was it, Balenciaga?
    http://www.shopnastygal.com/product_images/a/zoe4__49646.jpg

    People bought the shit out of these and sure, they aren’t the quality of Balenciaga’s shoe, but at somewhere in neighborhood of 6-800 dollars less it’s a much more affordable and attainable shoe.

    If people could retain quality designers in the companies that are more affordable/more designers worked with attainable collections (like Target) people might be less inclined to run headlong at knockoffs.

    As much as it’s wrong, people will get the knock offs not because they want to flip the bird to the designer or stick it too the man, but because they want the look.

  24. (different Michelle than the first commenter)

    “There are REAL designers out there who express their artistic vision creatively and this is what you are paying for – original art for your body – as well as a high quality product, and an honest work ethic.”

    A high quality product? I’m sorry, but if I’m going to pay $1500 for a pair of shoes (which even if I had the money, I would absolutely refuse to), they better sing, dance, and know how to mix drinks, because I don’t care how soft the leather is, that’s ridiculous.

    And original art for your body can be purchased at a much lower price – check out Fluevogs for example…they’re comfortable, handmade, high quality, & I think the highest priced pair on the site is still under $600. Not to mention, I would personally rather support a small business who really needs my money, than a big-name designer who probably doesn’t.

    I personally think the whole thing is ridiculous, because the people who can and would spend $1500 on shoes and the people who would buy the $100-150 knockoff are two completely different markets. Trying to completely eliminate all of the knockoffs just comes off, to me, as more posturing and trying to show that fashion ISN’T for everyone – it’s only for the people that can spend much on a pair of shoes. All the rest of us, apparently, can go get bent, because we should know better than trying to buy cheap knockoffs (that, let’s remember, aren’t fooling anyone! because obviously anyone who buys a pair thinks that they’re going to convince someone it’s a $1500 pair of shoes, they couldn’t possibly just be buying it because they like the look!). Gods forbid fashion be accessible to as many people as possible. We can’t have that!

  25. I really have to disagree with you here. I understand wanting a particular look that is out of your price range but like Poochie said, I would also rather do without. There are REAL designers out there who express their artistic vision creatively and this is what you are paying for – original art for your body – as well as a high quality product, and an honest work ethic.

    Steve Madden is the worst of the worst. I haven’t seen an original idea come out of that company ever really and I’m beyond pleased that McQueen is taking him to court. This is theft plain and simple. Unfortunately, there are enough people out there who would see those shoes and have no idea they were blatant rip offs. They aren’t to blame. When you know better, you do better and by buying these shoes, knowing full well what they are, would make you an accessory to a crime. Maybe that sounds a little severe but until designers get the same respect and backing of the law as other artists and designers, this will continue and the real artists will suffer.

    Also, you’re not fooling anyone when you’re out in poor quality rip offs that are missing key details. You may have a certain look but people who know… know. There are plenty of other affordable options out there. Let’s all quit pretending we can afford designer clothes when we can’t, get our priorities straight, be honest, and get real. If you can’t even afford $60 shoes, other things in your life need to be addressed.

  26. Madden is notorious for copying designers even to the point of taking thier images and photoshopping them –

    http://www.shoewawa.com/2007/08/christian_loubo_42.html

    http://shoedaydreams.blogspot.com/2007/08/imitation-flattery_10.html

    http://shoedaydreams.blogspot.com/2007/10/imitation-flattery.html

    http://shoedaydreams.blogspot.com/2007/09/imitation-flattery.html

    These are not “inspired” by the designer style, they are blatent intellectual property theft. I cannot support that and would rather do without. I used to buy pieces from SM but have boycotted ever since.

  27. Argh, that is very frustrating. Yes, it was imitated so that we pleebs could barely afford to pay for fashion. I understand McQueen’s point, but I could barely afford to drop $60 on shoes, would have to stretch for those $120 beauties, and now they are out of my reach because McQueen is upset that Madden copied his design. And yes, it was a imitation, but not down to the T. The heels are different, the toe is very different, and the material will not sit the way McQueen’s would. Grrrr, frustrating!

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