While strolling past Steve Madden's Soho outpost last night, we were shocked to spot a pair of dead rings for Christian Louboutin's $1200 Fifre corset-inspired booties in the window ... selling for just $169.95.
Now, Steve Madden's been embroiled in some knock-off shenanigans in the past, and was most recently sued by Alexander McQueen for design infringement over a certain motorcycle jacket-inspired bootie. Frankly, once we ventured into the store to investigate, we spotted more than a few familiar styles -- from a close interpretation of Louboutin's "Lady Page" pump to the label's take on Isabel Marant's much-imitated chain-embellished boot.
But it was the platform suede button-and-loop booties that were truly the most eerie -- and we should know, having cradled the real thing in our hot little hands at Bergdorf Goodman on (it's sad, but true) more than one occasion. There are differences: Louboutin's red suede is a bit more russet than scarlet, and the boot ends a bit lower -- likely more flattering to the ankle than Madden's version. These, however, are pretty minor differences for anyone who'd fallen hard for the $1195.00 version currently selling at Barneys, but who harbors no hopes of being able to afford the real thing.
So here's the quandry: We scold Steve Madden for what is so obviously a rip-off of a brilliantly-designed, sexy shoe. On the other hand, $1200 is a preposterous sum for any shoe, especially after a fast-fashion imitator has proven the design can be made for significantly less. To be sure: Louboutin's version is more sumptuous suede, likely has a more well-sculpted arch and shape, and overall has more thought and craft put into it. But in the long run, many women will, alas, settle for the imitation.
Side note: The Steve Madden "Trumpit" boots are currently selling in the store for $169.95, but you can buy them online for $149.95 at endless.com, should you be so inclined. If you can, on the other hand, afford the real thing, well, we're jealous.