Copycatting is one of one fashion's most common problems. It's why Nike has sued seemingly everyone; why Vans took MSCHF to court; and why Adidas sued Thom Browne over some stripes. Infringement doesn't just manifest as stolen logos or lookalike stripes, though. In a category like footwear, with defined categories that group like designs, plagiarism is easier to identify. Here, it's less about overlapping details and more about similarities in shape and silhouette.
That's why, at least at first, Padmore & Barnes' boots could be mistaken for knockoff Clarks. But in fact, there's a rich, little-known history between the two brands that stretches as far back as 1964.
From 1964 until 1987, Padmore & Barnes was actually owned by Clarks — then called C&J Clarks. Clarks used Padmore & Barnes' Kilkenny, Ireland-based factory to manufacture its newest style, the Wallabee, which the brand introduced in 1967. Clarks' ownership only lasted until 1987, though, when Padmore & Barnes secured a buyout after Clarks transferred the bulk of its production elsewhere.
In the years that followed, although excited about its independence, Padmore & Barnes struggled to gain its footing, even though craftsmen there had come up with a few original designs of their own. In 2000, Supreme founder James Jebbia tapped the brand for a small capsule collection celebrating the original Wallabees, which were made by hand, in Ireland.
The short-lived success wasn't enough to sustain Padmore & Barnes, though, and the brand faded from relevancy until 2010, when, courtesy of longtime Sales Director, Frank Bryan, it was brought back, and products were listed on its new webstore. Ever since, Padmore & Barnes has been churning out Clarks-ish boots, but with younger energy, even though Padmore & Barnes is 30 years older than Clarks.
Case in point? Padmore & Barnes's latest collaborations, a collection of shoes made with Vegas-born streetwear retailer Feature and a suite of boots done with Alex Mill. The former, each a cocktail of animal prints, muted mohairs, colorful suedes, classic crepe soles and embroidered cursive text logos, feels surprisingly new — and like Wallabees, but not, of course. The latter is a simpler approach, but contrast laces add a playful touch.
For fans of Clarks, Padmore & Barnes' designs are a piece of history. For those that feel Clarks are too safe, arguably even stale, Padmore & Barnes is a way to branch out.