This story has been updated.
Merchants of counterfeit Christian Louboutin shoes may see red in sales after over 20,000 pairs of the fakes were seized at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex.
On July 27, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists stopped a shipments of knockoffs from China worth about $7 million. An additional four shipments seized on Aug. 14 raised the shoe count to 20,457 pairs of women's footwear that violated Christian Louboutin's trademark. The shoes could have sold for a total of $18 million in the U.S., CBP spokesman Jaime Ruiz said.
The vaunted French designer's shoes come in an array of colors and styles, often commanding thousands of dollars per pair from well-heeled customers, including many celebrities. All pairs come with a signature red sole.
“The violation is the red sole. That’s a trademark of the shoes. They did not reproduce the name or the logo or anything like that,” Ruiz said. “We know by expertise that red soles are a protected trademark in the U.S. So we sent samples and communicated with Christian Louboutin — the legitimate owner of this trademark. They said, ‘No, those are not real, we aren’t expecting those shipments. In fact, we don’t make those shoes in China.’”
Ruiz said shippers only had their shoes confiscated for the first offense. If caught a second, officers open up an investigation. A third time could mean federal charges, including fines and jail time.
Ruiz added the shoes will most likely be destroyed — much to the horror of the fashion conscious.
The counterfeit shoes are often available on less scrupulous websites and other underground outlets. They're also often sold to users who are under the impression that they're the real deal, just discounted — significantly.
In the 2011 fiscal year, there were 1,020 seizures with a domestic value of over $37 million at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex. That's an 18 percent increase over 2010.
“This is just one example of the war against counterfeits,” Ruiz said. “We process thousands of items every week ranging from fake toothpaste, fake toilet paper, batteries, even aircraft parts.”
The coveted shoe brand is so iconic that even singer and actress Jennifer Lopez released a track waxing about a pair: