NEW YORK — Christian Louboutin sat nervously at the end of a dark, wooden bench in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan courthouse in Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, listening attentively as his lawyers argued before a panel of three Appeals Court judges who will soon determine the fate of his red-sole trademark.
“For YSL and [its parent company] PPR Group, this might just be a legal matter, but that’s not the case for me,” Louboutin told WWD. “On the contrary, to me it is very personal: After all, this is an intrinsic part of my life and my company, which bears my name — and which I have built over the past 20 years and still independently own. This is why I had to be there in person.”
Louboutin was flanked by Diane von Furstenberg, a friend and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who swooped into the courtroom wearing gold-rimmed aviators and a long black sparkly knit sweater over an off-white turtleneck and black skirt.
The French footwear designer was stoic as his lawyer, Harley Lewin of McCarter & English LLP, faced off against David Bernstein, lead counsel for Yves Saint Laurent.
At issue was whether a Manhattan Southern District judge came to the correct conclusion in August when he denied Louboutin a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped YSL from selling its red, monochromatic pump from the 2011 resort collection. In addition to siding with YSL, the lower court called into question the validity of the red-sole mark, which Louboutin obtained in 2008.
After Judge Victor Marrero delivered his verdict last summer, Lewin promptly filed an appeal, which led to Tuesday’s hearing before Judges José Cabranes, Chester Straub and Debra Livingston.
Standing before the grand, wood-paneled courtroom, Lewin said Judge Marrero “erred” because he viewed Louboutin’s mark as encompassing every shade of red, and not one shade of red, namely the brand’s signature Chinese red. As a result, Judge Marrero concluded that no one designer should have a “monopoly” on any color.
Lewin, who is also von Furstenberg’s lawyer and was introduced to Louboutin by the designer, told the judges: “We don’t claim anything but the mark as it is registered.”
When it was his turn to speak, YSL’s lawyer Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton told the judges, “Mr. Louboutin believes he’s an artist. He’s not a cobbler and we agree.”
Clad in a navy pin-striped suit, a frowning Louboutin gave a Gallic shrug as the rest of the courtroom, which was filled with a mix of fashionistas and lawyers, snickered.
“We make monochrome shoes,” said Bernstein, who argued that single-color design is integral to YSL’s DNA. “We don’t want to find out we can’t make red shoes.”
Periodically, the trio of judges interrupted both sides, inquiring not just about the red-sole trademark, but also criticizing Marrero’s opinion, which was only a positive for Louboutin.
“There are some far-reaching principles in this opinion,” said Straub. “What findings did he make to base this? I can’t find it. Show me where he recites in detail the basis for his holdings.”
According to Fordham Fashion Law professor Susan Scafidi, who was in the courtroom, such questioning doesn’t mean the judges will side with Louboutin, but if Marrero was present, he would have been “red-faced, had he been listening”
Now that the hearing is over, the judges will decide whether Marrero’s verdict stands, or if it will be reversed. If reversed, Louboutin and YSL will return to court to begin discovery in preparation for a trial.
“I was impressed by the way the judges ran the hearing,” Louboutin said. “The company remains confident that the appeals court will adhere to its conviction that the red sole, this integral and long-held part of the brand’s identity and recognized by consumers worldwide, will continue to be recognized as the Christian Louboutin trademark.”
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion