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Tyga’s MSCHF trainers prompt legal battle with Vans

By | Published on Thursday 21 April 2022

MSCHF x Tyga - Wavy Baby

Tyga has joined the exclusive club of rappers who have collaborated with MSCHF on trainers that resulted in legal action. Previously the only lonely occupant of this club was Lil Nas X.

MSCHF and Tyga put their limited edition Wavy Baby trainers – which appear as if they have been digitally warped – on sale on Monday via the MSCHF Sneakers website, reportedly seeing them sell out in just ten minutes.

The same day, MSCHF also filed its formal opposition to a legal request made last week by shoe maker Vans seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Wavy Baby product, which – it reckons – infringes its trademarks.

In its filing last week, Vans claimed that the MSCHF shoes “blatantly and unmistakably incorporate Vans’ iconic trademarks” and that MSCHF “shamelessly marketed the Wavy Baby shoe in a direct effort to confuse consumers”.

MSCHF countered all that by claiming that this was a free speech issue, saying its shoes were making a comment about the industry in which Vans operates.

Citing its official description of the product, it said: “By ‘smash[ing] the digital and the physical together in an object’, Wavy Baby inverts that retreat, translating virtual shoes back into physical goods, leaving behind a bizarre remnant that questions whether we can re-emerge from our digital lives – on social media, for example, where images and videos of Vans abound – without also being fundamentally warped”.

Its shoe, MSCHF goes on, is an “‘exaggerated shoe’ that is wobbly in shape, unique in appearance, and not practical for everyday wear”, while the “distinctive wavy shape” of its sole would make it unlikely that anyone would confuse its design with that of a Vans shoe.

In its spiel about the Wavy Baby shoes on its website, MSCHF said that this latest trainer-based project was specifically making a comment on the rampant design infringement that occurs in the sports shoe industry, explaining: “Sneaker companies are in a constant cycle of riffing on each other, and usually the innovations in form are boring”.

“Standard shoe practice is: steal a sole, steal an upper, change a symbol”, it went on. “What a boring use of cultural material. Wavy Baby is a complete distortion of an entire object that is itself a symbol”.

So, that perhaps makes Vans’ legal action a little ironic. Plus, of course, all of this controversy helps to bolster MSCHF’s mischievous brand, which is perhaps what it was hoping for all along.

This new legal battle is somewhat reminiscent of that which came off the back of its Satan Shoes collaboration with Lil Nas X last year, which mainly earned both the rapper and MSCHF a lot of free publicity. And, in the case of Lil Nas himself, provided an entire marketing concept for his next single release.

In that case, MSCHF was actually selling pairs of Nike Air Max 97 trainers with a little alteration. Limited to 666 pairs, the air soles of the shoes were filled with red ink and (MSCHF claimed) one drop of human blood. A pentagram was also hung off the laces.

Nike didn’t take kindly to this, complaining in a legal filing that the sale of the shoes was likely to cause confusion, and that – by modifying its product – MSCHF was potentially putting wearers at risk of injury. Also, it was worried that people would think that Nike had endorsed the product and was therefore super into Satanism.

In a settlement a month later, MSCHF agreed to recall all of the Satan Shoes and the similar Jesus Shoes it had sold two years earlier, refunding their purchasers. It’s unclear if anyone actually sent theirs back, but both sides said they were happy with that deal.

It seems likely that the legal battle with Vans will also end in some sort of – possibly equally toothless – settlement, with the ultimate winners being MSCHF and Tyga. Oh, and the lawyers. Always the lawyers.

You can see Tyga showing off his shoes here: