Shoe Business: Trendy Brand Knockoffs Trending at Fashion Week


Vogue New York Fashion Week

The saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is only popular with those who have never been ripped off.

The imitation in question is a rash of knockoff accusations levied at the ongoing New York Fashion Week. There, rumblings are on the rise that hip brands you may not have never heard of have been the victims of design copying by a few brands you have certainly heard of. The evidence, says the fashion world, “is fairly damning.”

First is Everlane, an online fashion retailer barely old enough to eat solid foods. Bucking trends on manufacturing transparency, Everlane made a name for its “modern basics” in clear, unfussy designs by openly talking about its China factory and how that manufacturing arrangement created cost savings for consumers. But now Everlane implies that soulless J. Crew swiped its shoe design and jacked up the price.

Everlane J.Crew New York Fashion Week

On Instagram, Everlane put its The Everlane 2014 Modern Loafer side by side with J.Crew’s 2015 Leather Loafer and a notable J. Crew price increase. Are the shoes identical? It’s hard to tell. It’s unclear if Everlane was highlighting the simple price difference or suggesting that J. Crew stole its design. The post’s commenters did not make it any more clear, with some calling the post “tacky.” So was it a knockoff? J. Crew’s own interpretation of a loafer? The answer appears to be on the foot of the be-wearer or in a blog’s comments section.

Of course, catty fashion fights make for great fashion media. Everlane’s Instagram callout was picked up by media like New York Magazine and Racked, which luckily had a few more cases of imitation-itis on hand to make shoe knockoffs the trend of Autumn 2015.

Zadeh Gavriel New York Fashion Show

Next case in point: The shoes are “way too close… to be an accident,” New York designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh told Women’s Wear Daily about New York designer Mansur Gavriel’s new mule style shoes. Gavriel had even booked the same model Zadeh used to model her shoes. The model cancelled on Gavriel’s campaign when she learned of the controversy. Zadeh further explained the design similarity to Refinery 29:

“The use of my signature block heel paired with an open-toe mule and slide designs, in conjunction with rich hues in suede and leather are, in my opinion, too close to be an accident. […] It saddens me that a fellow New-York based brand, especially one based a only a few blocks from my design studio and retail store, would so blatantly attempt to plagiarize my work and think that it would go unnoticed.”

A fashionable lawsuit may be Zadeh’s next release.

While a bit more damning than the Everlane example, the question is open to interpretation. Indeed, Women’s Wear Daily opened its coverage of the controversy with a question: “Who owns the open-toed mule?” Please put your answer in the comments and show your work.

Three makes a trend and the third instance of knockoff accusations this season is between Kate Spade and Valentino, with the former accused of over-borrowing from the latter.


With an added bow being one of the only differences, Kate Spade is withering under criticism from fashion watchers that it stole a design from Valentino’s iconic Rockstud high heels and flats. The scandal began with another Instagram post.

When Kate Spade put its Spring 2016 heels on Instagram, the reaction was immediate and fierce. “Rockstuds??” droned one follower, “least it looks like Valentino’s” wrote another. Less gracious was another: “What a #copycat #valentinowannabe.” The Daily Mail excelled at what it most excels at, headlining its coverage “What a Copy-Kate!

But to paraphrase Women’s Wear Daily, “Who owns studded stilettos?”