Washington: Edgardo Osorio’s prized sandals sit on a glass shelf inside his Madison Avenue boutique under zebra-striped arches and golden chandeliers. The shoes have skinny heels, frills, and a tassel dangling from a dainty ankle strap that weaves up the leg. These days, they’re available in all kinds of colours and materials, but their signature suede style comes in a bold lipstick red.
Osorio, the co-founder and creative director of fashion label Aquazzura, calls the sandal one of his most iconic creations. Coveted by celebrities and fashion bloggers alike, these $785 (Dh2,883) suede numbers became a true “It” shoe since gaining traction in 2015. They helped catapult the designer and his label to international prominence. So when he discovered that the clothing brand run by the daughter of now-President Donald Trump was making a similar item for only $65, he called in the lawyers.
Fed up with alleged duplicate shoe designs, Aquazzura fired off multiple lawsuits over his Wild Thing sandal. Arguably similar styles hit store shelves under labels including Mollini, Missguided, and Jessica Buurman. Aquazzura didn’t challenge the smaller brands, but instead went after what he claimed to be the larger copycats: Steve Madden, Marc Fisher, and Ivanka Trump.
“One of the most disturbing things in the fashion industry is when someone blatantly steals your copyright designs and doesn’t care,” his label posted on its Instagram account in March 2016. “You should know better. Shame on you @ivankatrump! Imitation is NOT the most sincere form of flattery.” Aquazzura sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump about the shoe, asking her company to stop selling its sandal.
“Based on Aquazzura’s prior dealings with your client’s company, and on the obvious and purposeful copying of our client’s shoe, we anticipate that you will challenge Aquazzura’s rights in its design, maintaining that the designs lack secondary meaning, and that your client is therefore free to knock them off with impunity,” the letter said, citing some of the elements of infringement. To avoid a court battle, Aquazzura demanded Trump’s company remove all pictures of the sandal in question from its website and social media, stop advertising the shoe, destroy all existing pairs, disclose its manufacturer, hand over profits from sales of the offending shoe, and “agree in writing under oath not to offer for sale any knock-off” again. Aquazzura gave Trump a week to comply, or else face legal action.
Trump did not comply, so two months later, Aquazzura sued her along with Marc Fisher. In a complaint filed in June 2016 in Manhattan federal court, the company accused Trump of infringement, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices. “Seeking the same success Aquazzurra experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work, defendants resorted to knocking off plaintiff’s popular designs,” the complaint stated. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Darren Saunders, attorney for the defendants, said Wednesday that the two sides are in settlement talks. Lawyers for Aquazzura declined to comment.