Not only is Steve Madden knocking off Isabel Marant, the notorious design pirate beat the French designer to stores. Case in point: the Marant Willow sneaker, which debuted several seasons ago, and has amassed a cult following, leading to its "sold out" status on nearly every site, including Net-a-Porter. For Fall 2012, Isabel Marant is reintroducing the wedge sneaker in several new colors. The gold Willow sneaker immediately caught our eye, and apparently, Steve Madden has taken a liking to the gold version, too. Madden has been selling a nearly identical version in its stores since the end of May (below right). Its luxury counterpart, the gold Marant Willow sneaker, is not yet available. Isabel Marant fans can pre-order the new Fall 2012 Willow sneakers now, but the first shipments are not expected until July. This gives Madden a serious advantage in terms of timing.
This is the essence fast-fashion, folks. Runway to store in a flash - long before the legitimate designer. It takes a lot longer for Marant to carefully manufacture its shoes in France than Madden (and other fast-fashion labels), who quickly manufactures knockoffs in factories with questionable labor standards. Since the wedge sneaker is becoming a serious trend, there are quite few other lookalikes on the market, including the Bea Concealed Wedge Suede and Leather Trainer by Ash. However, while Ash interprets the Willow design (adding shoelaces and employing various other aesthetic differences), the Steve Madden version is not just inspired by Marant, we think its a blatant copy. This would not be Madden's first knockoff. You may recall that Balenciaga took the company to court in 2009 for copying its "LEGO" heels and its Open Toe Lace Up Leather Boots. Alexander McQueen took the fast-fashion shoemaker to court in 2010 for knocking off its Faithful bootie, and the list goes on. Trends and inspiration is one thing, blatant copying is another!
Isabel Marant's Willow sneaker (left) & Bea's version (right)