With Nike suing a Los Angeles based streetwear brand owned by Warren Lotas over a shoe design that resembles its popular Dunk sneakers, this forces us to question the true creativity coming from urban communities and streetwear brands.
Nike suing brands and designers is nothing new.
The sportswear company has an extensive resume and reputation for addressing imitators designing similar signature designs.
Of course, Nike is suing Lotas as his sneaker designs are undeniable rips from the Nike line with touches from the brand’s aesthetic.
The sneaker is a partnership with the Staple Pigeon label, whose founder, Jeff Staple, inconspicuously commented on an Instagram post of the shoe by @WarrenLotas. But since last Wednesday, Nike has begun litigation in a suit against the Warren Lotas streetwear brand.
Nike is making it clear that the Lotas’ “version” of the Dunk known as the Staple Pigeon x WL is causing “confusion in the marketplace regarding whether they are legitimate customizations or illegal fakes.”
Who got the budget for the lawyer, tho?
In 2006, Nike sent a cease and desist to designer Ari Forman for a similar reason. He designed a thoughtful sneakerhead’s/designer’s dream shoe in an Air Force silhouette.
The shoe originally came about from Ari’s design endeavors, which included Nike, a love for sneakers, and a battle with cigarettes he witnessed his mother fall victim to.
According to the Nike lawsuit, as well as Newport cigarette company, the “Ari” design resembled the Nike swoosh, as well as copied a lot of Newport cigarette branding and logo.
The Menthol 10s, as Ari named the sneaker, was a premier sneaker culture shoe at the time and drew lines to the then existing NYC Soho shoe store Clientele, like the Staple NYC Pigeon Dunk did the previous year at the Reed Space Lower Eastside retail space.
The Menthol 10s were designed in the Newport colorway. Additionally, the kicks came in a shoebox mimicking the notorious Newport green-striped cigarette box.
Ari’s design drew the attention of the two big brands. Within a matter of days, Ari was eventually sued by Newport with a list of demands to follow.
Notably, Japanese brand BAPE got away with a similar Air Force 1 design that made the Bathing Ape brand a cult favorite in the streetwear market when it debuted in NYC in 2003.
Not the first rodeo for Nike, but this begs the question of creativity coming from urban communities and streetwear brands.
Since Virgil Abloh has openly [and behind closed doors] remade, repurposed, and re-used the concept of ready-made designs to create his work, seemingly enough, creativity coming from the top and bottom brands have a familiarity and certain redundancy.
Virgil famously redid a series of Nike trainers for his collaborative “The Ten” series. Forman describes the shoes in a positive light referencing them as a “deconstructed bootleg” of a shoe.
This is regarding what he thought he was doing when he designed his Menthol 10s. For Ari, the shoe conjures an idea. What we like is usually addictive and in habitual terms, bad for you.
“Forced collaboration,” Ari describes, is the idea of transforming negative connotations into a positive conversation. Lotas, on the other hand, spent energy on a reinterpretation, similar to Abloh. The forced concept would be the literal interpretation but is often muddled in the translation of the product.
Takeaways from the Nike lawsuit against Warren Lotas…
Without sanction, Lotas’ effort faces turmoil as their site has since been closed… SICK. Ari’s lesson in design proves that rather than pulling from what we see it’s best to take what inspires you in smaller bites.
Remember to always weigh the pros and cons of your design.