Famed footwear brand, Manolo Blahnik is in hot water after it attempted to import nearly 300 pairs of shoes made from the skin of a rare species of snake over two years ago. According to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, the shoes that were seized by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service inspectors were made out of skin from the dog-faced water snake, a species that has been listed as endangered since 1973, making the Manolos a clear violation of the Indian Wildlife Act. Reports allege that the shoes were seized at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2013 when customs officials noted that the shipment’s bill of lading did not accurately identify where the goods were produced and what animal skins were used in their production.
According to documents filed in court on Tuesday, the shipment documentation that was included with the shoes was faulty. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein notes that statements that the snakeskins originated in China are inaccurate. “The dog-faced water snake, Cerberus rynchops, is not known to have a wild population in China,” she wrote. Instead, this particular snake resides in the Southeast Asia. The snakeskins used to make the shoes, the price of which is estimated to reach $50,000 in total, were reportedly sent to Hong Kong from China, then to Italy, then to the United States.
The government is seeking have the London-based footwear company’s confiscated shoes, which remain at JFK Airport, entered into its possession.