The rise in popularity for bootleg sneaker designer Warren Lotus has been a bizarre phenomenon in sneaker culture. Fake sneakers, once a cardinal sin, have suddenly become a hot commodity as a wave of designers including Lotus have recreated iconic shoes with slight alterations.
Some see it as a nod to the most beloved silhouettes of all time and as a suitable alternative to market that gives few the chance to purchase the real thing. Others still see it as an affront to sneaker culture, a mere makeover to an unacceptable practice. Nike, we now know, sees it as illegal.
In a lawsuit against Lotus filed Wednesday, Nike claims his creations "are not legitimate customizations, they are illegal fakes." The suit was made specifically in response to Lotus' collaboration with Jeff Staple on a recreation of the iconic SB Dunk "Pigeon." Released in 2005, the sneaker marked a pivotal moment in sneaker culture by causing a now-legendary riot that served as a precursor to rare sneakers becoming a dominant force. More recently, a pair of the unworn sneakers has sold for up to $18,000.
The resemblance is unquestionable — Lotus and Staple recreated the Pigeon Dunk almost to a tee, the only real difference being a Swoosh transformed with Jason Voorhees' mask from the Halloween horror franchise. Available to pre-order for just 15 minutes at a price of $300, the custom kicks / bootlegs were a hot enough commodity to draw Nike's ire.
The sportswear giant is claiming "trademark and anti-dilution" in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in a California federal court, The Fashion Law reports. Nike asserts it right in the suit to protect "its iconic sneaker designs, and its intellectual property in those designs, by rooting-out bad actors that undermine the DNA of sneaker culture by promoting and selling fakes." The suit goes on to call Lotas one of those bad actors by "currently promoting and selling fakes of coveted Nike Dunks."
Input has reached out to both Nike and Lotus for comment and we'll update this story accordingly.
Now what? — The most pertinent question, for those who purchased at least, will be if Lotus is allowed to go forward with shipping for his sneakers. Pre-orders were made available in September, with delivery meant to begin after three or four months. Nike is seeking an injunction to not only prevent shipping of the bootleg Dunks, but of any similar release going forward.
Nike is also seeking monetary damages while also claiming the company "has suffered, continues to suffer, and / or is likely to suffer damage to its trademarks, business reputation, and goodwill that money cannot compensate."
Staple, who owns the rights to the Pigeon logo that appeared on both the original and Lotus-designed kicks, is not named in the suit. His relationship with Nike continues to this day, and an official high-top version of the Pigeon Dunk released just last month.