Aquazzura’s founder took to the brand’s Instagram account this past week to call out Ivanka Trump for copying. The presidential candidate’s spawn maintains a New York-based clothing and accessories collection, which released a shoe that was just a bit too close for comfort to Aquazzura’s Wild Thing fringe sandal for the brand’s creative director, Edgardo Osorio.
According to the brand’s recent Instagram post, which features a side-by-side photo of the Ivanka Trump shoe and Aquazzura’s popular Wild Thing sandal: “One of the most disturbing things in the fashion industry is when someone blatantly steals your copyright design and doesn’t care.” Osorio continues on: to write: “You should know better. Shame on you Ivanka Trump. Imitation is NOT the most sincere form of flattery. #ItaliansDoItBetter.” And this isn’t the first time. In January, Aquazzura commented on one of Trump’s posts featuring the same shoe style, saying, “You should be embarrassed for copying young designers! Shame on you!!!!”
Osorio also spoke out recently about the widespread availability of Aquazzura copies and the damage it does to his young brand. “As a young designer, you become well known for a silhouette,” Osorio told BoF. These classic styles, which can be carried through several seasons, “are the way the designer makes money, because they don’t go on sale. When they start copying my classic styles, it’s a problem.”
The shoe at issue, Trump’s Hettie Heel (above, right), is, in fact, a dead ringer for Osorio’s best selling Wild Thing sandal (above, left), a style that Steve Madden has also recently replicated. Trump has even rolled out a suspiciously similar red hue, which is the shade that has been a widespread success when it comes to the Aquazzura original. So popular, the Aquazzura version landed on the feet of many celebs and on Lyst’s most coveted items of 2015 list, as it was one of the online shopping site’s hottest sellers of the year.
And to make matters just a bit worse, this isn’t Trump’s first offense. In 2011, New York-based designer, Derek Lam, called out 34-year old Trump for copying one of his footwear designs. Lam reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump, accusing her of “blatantly and intentionally copying” his shoe design. “We have seen very similar copies before but we have never seen a shoe that perfectly copied,” Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann, chief executive officer of Derek Lam, said at the time. “It’s such an investment to make a shoe … we had to protest this.” That’s strike one.
But back to Aquazzura: The legally-minded amongst us likely paused when Osorio called attention to his “copyright” protected design. As you may know, copyright protection is often difficult to come by in the U.S., as copyright law does not protect useful items, such as clothes and shoes, in their entirety. While there is an argument here that Osorio can claim protection over the fringe elements of his shoe (in accordance with the copyright doctrine of separability), he likely cannot claim rights in the entire shoe.
However, Italian law is another matter, as it would likely provide protection for the shoe design as a whole (as the national protections there are more design friendly than those offered in the U.S.). Unfortunately for Osorio, Italian copyright protection will be of little help in preventing the sale of such copies stateside. So, in lieu of a registered copyright in the U.S. and a lack of design patent protection for the Wild Thing design, he’s left with the court of public opinion, in which he can publicly shame Trump for her copycat ways and hope to deter consumers from shopping the lookalike shoe.