During New York Fashion Week last week, Mansur Gavriel debuted its first shoe collection alongside its it-girl favorite bags. While many in the industry were excited to see this emerging brand make its way into new areas of market, one fellow designer was not so please.
Designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh of New York City, released a statement claiming that the brand’s duo design team, Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel, had copied Zadeh’s “hallmark mule and slide designs” and that the shoes were also in identical colors to Zadeh’s Spring 2015 collection.
When pressed about her accusations by Business of Fashion, she revealed that her store records show purchases from “Rachel Mansur dating March, April and May 2015, of the exact styles and colors in question, as well [as] an earlier purchase of Maryam Nassir Zadeh sandals from Floriana Gavriel in July 2014.” She cites this as evidence that the designers had access to her shoes and referenced them in their own line.
Mansur and Gavriel responded to the accusations by issuing a statement to BOF whereby they claim that similarities between their own line and that of Zadeh’s is accidental and that the duo had “developed and designed [the shoe line] over the past 18 months, drawing inspiration from classic shoe silhouettes and the iconic colors and materials of our handbag collection.”
Zadeh hasn’t said whether she will take any legal action, but even if she does, she will have a difficult time proving her case. Intellectual Property law has no protection over the elements that she claims are proprietary to her.
Shoe styles such as mules and slides will never be protected by copyright because under the law, the elements of these shoes are useful and therefore not protectable. Similarly, its tough to trademark a color. The only way to do so is through the route of Christian Louboutin and Tiffany & C0., whereby the color is so distinct it becomes a signifier of the brand à la red-soled heels and little blue boxes.
Oftentimes in my posts about copying designs, I talk about the difference between following a trend and outright copying a design. Where is the line between creating a high neck halter top because its the current trend and merely copying the exact same shirt from a high end collection. In this case, I think its simply a case of two designers following the current trend of shoes.
Mules and slides were very popular in the 70’s and 90’s and have begun to make a comeback in a new way right now, as is other trends from these eras: off-the-shoulder tops/dress, high-neck halters, wide-leg pants, and so on.
In terms of color, Mansur Gavriel stated that the “colours selected for this collection all tie back to the interior and exterior colours of our core handbag collection, which has been on the market since June 2013.” Being a huge fan of the brand — planning to make my first purchase of a bucket bag in October — this is definitely a statement I agree with. The colors chosen could not be more consistent with the theme of the brand. The shoes fit perfectly with the existing bags of the brand.
So, while it can be frustrating to see other brands in the same space as you, it seems unlikely that this is a true fashion law case of a brand copying another brand. But, one thing that Zadeh has successfully done is open up the conversation about copying, forcing people to take a second look at Mansur Gavriel’s shoe collection, and making them think and talk about whether or not any sort of copying has taken place.
For me, someone who vehemently opposes copying within the fashion industry, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, but I always love an opportunity to talk about potential copying issues. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out.