Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tiffany Blue and Shoes with Red Soles (Paternalistic Pampering & Infringement Litigation)

I've spotted many recent instances of what looks like "Tiffany Blue" in fashion/luxury/refinement contexts. The most egregious of which is its use by Jessica Simpson branded products: handbags, shoes and very noticeably, the shoe boxes. This is surprising given how frequently you see mention of the fact that "Tiffany Blue" is a trademarked color, especially formulated by Pantone but unavailable in their library. I'm not aware of Tiffany ever suing anyone for infringing on this trademark but recently the company did weigh in on Christian Louboutin's lawsuit against YSL for copying the way they color the bottom of their shoe's soles red. (Tiffany's filed a legal brief in support of Louboutin's position.)

(Link: Tiffany & Co. Takes Christian Louboutin’s Side in Red Sole Lawsuit)

Whether or not these are instances of infringement is debatable. It was the sighting of a "robins egg blue" Jessica Simpson shoebox that first caught my attention and sensitivity to subsequent sightings of the color. Certainly, any designer working in fashion or luxury would be aware of the strong association of this hue and the Tiffany brand. Any "box" in that hue is treading firmly in Tiffany territory.

Part of what makes the color so distinctive is that it is a surprising, unlikely choice for a luxury brand. I wouldn't describe it as a romantic tone but there is a strong "nuptial" association that extends toward the romantic. (Tiffany's began as a stationary store).

If it isn't obviously about luxury, what does "Tiffany Blue" mean?

My theory is that the color says "pampering", the kind of delicate care connoted by baby blues and pinks without evoking nursery (at least in a direct, obvious way). In particular, it conveys a paternalistic pampering that says, "daddy's gonna take care of you".

Does blue really work for Tiffany?

Shoes and the color red have a fascinating history that go back way before Christian Louboutin. The following is an excerpt from a fascinating post on The Fashion Historian Blog: Red Heels:

A perfect example of this system of monitoring the aristocracy is red heels on shoes. Louis XIV declared that only those in the royal favor were allowed the privilege of having red heels on their shoes, allowing everyone to show off when they were in favor. Red heels was like sitting at the popular kids table in school, only the very coolest kids could wear them.

Suddenly, if you fell out of the royal favor, everyone would know. It's bad enough to be out of the royal favor, it's even worse when you have to advertise it to the world. It was the perfect method for controlling a once unruly upper class. Aristocrats behaved themselves and they didn't have to face the shame of not having red heels on their shoes.

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