CATCH A WAVE: Despite a preemptive legal strike by Vans and VF Outdoor LLC, the Brooklyn-based art collective and platform MSCHF is going forward with its plans to drop a skate shoe on Monday.
In Thursday’s 131-page filing with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York, Vans and VF Outdoor claimed that MSCHF has embarked on a campaign to piggyback on Vans’ rights and the goodwill it has developed in its iconic shoes by collaborating with Michael Stevenson (who is better known as the musician “Tyga”) to design, develop and advertise the MSCHF Wavy Baby shoe. In doing so, the company contends this is a direct effort “to confuse consumers and unlawfully siphon sales from Vans, and intentionally damage its intellectual property rights.”
Nevertheless, MSCHF plans to release its Wavy Baby on Monday. In a statement posted on MSCHF’s site and released by cofounder Daniel Greenberg, the company said it is not a skate shoe, but the “platonic ideal of a skate shoe, warped to s–t.” Known for its wordplay, MSCHF, which counts Wordle founder Josh Wordle among its employees, appears to be playing off the skate and surf brand’s popular music festival: Vans Warped Tour.
“Sneaker companies are in a constant cycle of riffing on each other,” the statement said. “Standard shoe industry practice is: steal a sole, steal an upper, change a symbol. What a boring use of cultural material. Wavy Baby is a complete distortion of an entire object that is itself a symbol.”
MSCHF claims that Vans reached out to the company asking for among other things half the profits and four pairs of shoes. The collective claimed Vans indicated in the post they were willing to meet about future collaboration “LMAO.”
Contesting that Vans is “a hidebound institution hiding behind its past heritage as a ‘creative youth brand,’” MSCHF claimed that the Wavy Baby is transformational “above and beyond anything Vans would ever attempt.”
The legal complaint notes how Vans is seeking punitive damages, restitution, prejudgment and post-judgment interest on all monetary awards and further relief as the court may deem just.
Attorneys for Vans at McGuire Woods did not respond immediately to requests for comment Thursday. A spokesman for the VF Corp.-owned Vans said the Old Skool style is one of its iconic styles that is worn by Vans fans around the world and “we remain committed to safeguarding our heritage and intellectual property. While we are unable to comment on pending litigation and are disappointed that it has reached this point, we are taking the necessary legal action.”
Last month MSCHF said it was getting into the sneaker game on its own by unveiling an in-house sneaker line. The collective has a reputation for controversial releases. Last June, MSCHF set off a media firestorm after launching “Satan shoes,” repurposed Nike sneakers that were said to have a few drops of blood in them, which were promoted by Lil Nas X. Nike filed a lawsuit against MSCHF, which both parties eventually settled.