PARIS — François-Henri Pinault today shot back against accusations that his luxury group defends plagiarism, saying he was confident that Yves Saint Laurent would win the right to continue selling shoes with red soles in the ongoing court case pitting it against Christian Louboutin.
Speaking at a press conference following the publication of PPR’s 2011 results, Pinault addressed a recent interview Louboutin gave to French daily Libération, in which the shoe designer compared PPR to counterfeiters and suggested it was trying to destroy his independently-owned label.
“We won the first proceedings in quite precise, clear terms and I am therefore very confident with regard to this case, even if I regret it, because these are two great houses and I think we have better things to do than to fight in court over a question of color,” the PPR chairman and chief executive officer said.
“It will not have escaped your notice that Saint Laurent has had a certain legitimacy regarding the use of this color for many, many years,” he added, reprising an argument upheld by YSL’s counsel in court.
A Manhattan judge in August denied Louboutin a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped YSL from selling its red, monochromatic pump from the 2011 resort collection. The lower court also called into question the validity of the red-sole mark, which Louboutin obtained in 2008. Louboutin has appealed the ruling.
Pinault said he regretted the court fight because of his personal friendship and respect for Louboutin. “I tried to find an arrangement in the best interest of both brands. That was not the wish of the house of Louboutin, which decided to attack Saint Laurent,” he said.
Louboutin told Libération that he had met with Pinault to discuss the issue and that initially, he had been under the impression that the PPR chief would fix the problem. He said he later concluded that PPR was oblivious to the alleged copyright infringement and did not expect a small brand to tackle its “army of lawyers.”
Separately at the results presentation, PPR divulged the weight of footwear across its various brands.
The footwear category accounts for 5 percent of the business at Bottega Veneta, 13 percent at Gucci and 25 percent at YSL. For PPR’s “other brands” – which include Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Sergio Rossi, Brioni and non-shoe names such as Boucheron and Girard–Perregaux – footwear accounts for 15 percent of the business.
In its sport & lifestyle division, PPR said Puma derives 51 percent of revenues from footwear, versus only 1 percent for its other brands, primarily Volcom and Electric.
Pinault explained that Volcom is relying on Puma’s expertise in sneakers to ramp up its footwear category. He noted that the synergies in the sport division are considerable, particularly for sourcing, logistics and product development.