Zooey Deschanel Sues Steven Madden

The actress alleges the shoe specialist reneged on a $1.5 million payment for a namesake line.

Zooey Deschanel

LOS ANGELES — Zooey Deschanel and Steven Madden Ltd. have broken up before even getting started.

This story first appeared in the December 21, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Deschanel, a darling of indie romantic comedies, has sued the shoe specialist for failing to pay her at least $1.5 million for a planned Zooey shoes and accessories brand. In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the actress, model, singer and songwriter, who wanted to add a fashion credit to her résumé, said the company orally agreed to manufacture, advertise and sell the brand worldwide for as long as two years.

The lawsuit alleged that Madden balked at the agreement to move forward with the brand in October and refused to compensate Deschanel. About three months before, the court documents allege that Madden approved a $2 million up-front payment to Deschanel in order to use her name and likeness, plus a 5 percent domestic royalty fee and a 4.5 percent international royalty fee, before reducing the up-front amount to $1.5 million with her consent.

The lawsuit said Deschanel didn’t seek or obtain competing corporate sponsorships because of her expectation that Madden would market the Zooey merchandise. She was tapped by Coty Inc.’s Rimmel cosmetics brand in March to be a brand ambassador. In October, Deschanel spoke to WWD about her relationship with Rimmel, saying: “I want to be associated with products that are accessible for everyone.”

Steven Madden Ltd. did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit comes in a positive year for Madden. For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, sales at the Long Island City, N.Y.-based company, which operates more than 80 stores and distributes to department stores, specialty chains and mass merchants, surged 31 percent to $184.1 million, and the company has touted its acquisition of Betsey Johnson as offering major growth potential.

The company has deals with other personalities and is said to be trying to nail down more, including Katy Perry. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have teamed up with Madden for licensed footwear, handbags and belts under the Olsenboye label, and Elizabeth and James for footwear, and Daisy Fuentes has done the same for handbags.