As kids, before we started obsessing over colorways and collaborations, all we could ever ask for in shoes is that it's original. The same still stands today—we put high value on authenticity. We often throw around the contracted orig to describe an item that, well, isn't fake. If it came from a mall, an official retailer, or your relative in the States, you could be pretty sure (and damn proud) that your kicks are superior to the ones the other kids' parents bought in Greenhills or Cartimar.
But if you'd really think about it, just how original can a pair be? Shoe design is, after all, a creative process—and such is necessarily derivative. Nothing can really be completely, entirely, purely original. When Tinker Hatfield first made the Air Max 1, he took inspiration from the Pompidou Center, a complex building designed by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. Hatfield went on to come up with several Air Jordans based on everything—from fighter jets to Ferraris—and yet he's still the foremost sneaker designer today. Nike's first shoe ever was actually inspired by (and, in fact, quite reminiscent of) the Onitsuka Tiger Corsair, which Swoosh founder Bill Bowerman used to peddle. Everything creative necessarily takes from something else, and that's usually okay.
But in some cases, "taking inspiration" takes a turn for the worse. Too much, and before you know it, you're ripping something off. If you fail to add anything of your own to that which inspires you, the result of your creative process is hardly creative at all—it's a flagrant and unwarranted knock-off. It happens a lot in the fashion, particularly the sneaker world, where industry leaders are always trying to one-up each other, even to the point of sometimes knocking each other off. Before we even begin to talk about the straight-up fakes shipped in from China and passed off as orig at less-than-reputable establishments, let's take a look at some of the times that big brands were bold enough to try and pass something off as an homage, or perhaps a fair case of "taking inspiration," only to fail very, very miserably.
Who better to take inspiration from than Yeezy himself? At the height of the Yeezy Boost’s popularity in 2015, fashion label ZARA decided to release their own interpretation of the Yeezy Boost 750s. The result, surprisingly, isn’t all that bad. But really, who were they trying to kid?
ZARA is owned by Inditex, a company that also owns its younger, trendier cousin, Bershka. Someone from Inditex must really be a Kanye stan, because Bershka did their own terrible homage to Yeezy’s adidas designs. Embarrassingly, Bershka also dropped a pair of shoes that look suspiciously like Y-3 Qasas. SMH.
The name itself sounds like someone at Skechers just said “fuck it, let’s do this” and called it a night. Clearly a copy of adidas’ Energy Boost and Nike’s Flyknit (down to the colorways!), the Bursts have earned Skechers yet another bout in the American judicial system, as it was sued (by Nike, and not adidas, if you would believe).
STEVE MADDEN SETTA
If you’re a fan of the whole Woven thing that Nike did a few years ago, you’d know of the Nike Free Woven—an elegant little slip-on that employs the Swoosh’s woven design technology in a very cool, minimalist way, with a Free sole. Steven Madden released a pair of shoes called the Setta, which look suspiciously similar. But the most appalling part of it all is that it wasn’t Nike that took up arms to sue Steve Madden—it was repeat offender Skechers, who, apparently, had filed for a patent they had of something similar for their Go Walk line. Talk about kapalmuks.
GOURMET CEASE AND DESISTO
You may already know Gourmet Footwear—an Italian-American shoe brand that’s been making the rounds over the past decade. They’ve even landed here on our shores, and you might have already seen a lot of their fairly original designs in stores like Sneak Peek. But back in 2007, when they were still a fledgling brand among the likes of Supra, Gourmet dropped a line that took a little too much inspiration from your favorite Air Jordans, including the 7, the 11, and the 12.
SUPRA SKYTOP IV
Speaking of your favorite skate brand back in 2009, whatever happened to Supra? Well, in its struggle to remain relevant, Supra released its fourth Skytop—some might say three iterations too many, which on its own looks passably original. But when they it was released in an Air Yeezy 2 black-and-pink colorway, it was clear where they got their "inspiration." Suddenly, you could see the Air Tech Challenge sole and the Yeezy’s trademark scales at the back and side.
Try to remember Shaquille O'Neal for his Reeboks, and if you can, forget about the fact that he has his own footwear brand. We’ll just leave these here.
When you’re a well-known brand, or one that’s actually trying to make it big for creative work, the worst thing you can do is cross that line between homage and knock-off. While it’s okay to take inspiration, it’s hard to let go of blatant plagiarism.
Images via i.ebayimg.com (ZARA Boosts Knock-off), 4.kicksonfire.net (ZARA Boosts Original), images.complex.com (Bershka Boosts), static5.businessinsider.com (Skechers Onix), ecx.images-amazon.com (Skechers Burst Knock-off), 5.kicksonfire.net (Skechers Burst Original), static1.squarespace.com (Steve Madden Setta Knock-Off), images.complex.com (Steve Madden Setta Original), sneakernews.com (Gourment Cease), kicksdeals.com (Gourmet Desisto), mixupper.com (Supra Skytop IV Knock-Off), static.highsnobiety.com (Supra Skytop IV Original), images.solecollector.com (Shaq Dunkmans)