The Fashion Law Chronicles had the pleasure of attending 'Robot Couture: The Future of Fashion and Technology' which was held at New York Law School. The school, which has been instrumental in advancing the conversation concerning fashion, law, and technology under the direction of Joseph M. Forgione in collaboration with other legal scholars, brought together innovators in fashion, attorneys, students, and professionals, in order to discuss numerous issues in the field of fashion ranging from counterfeiting to wearable technology and its impact on intellectual property. 

Image: Courtesy of Delabuzz.com 

Image: Courtesy of Delabuzz.com 

The Discussion

The symposium which was divided into three panels discussing various topics, began with a brief networking session where guests and attorneys representing brands such as Estee Lauder and Rebecca Minkoff among others, were able to connect. Afterwards, the discussion of trademark infringement and how it relates to the efforts that are currently being pursued to avert infringement attempts was advanced. The panel brought forth questions of how designers are now able to use methods such as RFID (Radio-frequency identification) chips, as a means to identify knockoff goods.

Central to this discussion were in-house attorneys, who cited that prior to this method, it was quite difficult to police counterfeit pieces in the fashion industry. Advancing this discussion has proven to be a crucial factor in fashion law, as it has prompted brands to expand their measures against counterfeiting at a more rapid pace. The discussion allowed for practitioners and guests to expand the conversation on counterfeiting to include a wide variety of topics previously not discussed in the fashion industry.

Image: ThreeASFOUR fall 2016 collection by founder and designer, Gabbi Asfour. Courtesy of Vogue 

Image: ThreeASFOUR fall 2016 collection by founder and designer, Gabbi Asfour. Courtesy of Vogue 

The discussion climaxed with what can arguably be considered to be one of the most important topics in fashion. One of the speakers on the panel discussed the idea of 3-D printing, and the setbacks that could possibly outweigh the positive aspects of the new technology.

Jeanne Fromer, Professor at New York University School of Law posed several interesting questions, one of which, asks us to consider what fashion’s function is in relation to whether or not fashion is copyright-able. We are then able to consider how that relates to 3-D printing, as Fromer cited an example of United States soldiers who wore camouflage in order to change their appearance, thus hiding them. This idea is in stark contrast to a picture of Vietnam soldiers, who also wore camouflage printed clothing, but were not hidden. This allowed us to consider that fashion has different roles, which may make it more difficult to police through copyright, especially when 3-D printing is involved, as it is a process that is highly susceptible to counterfeiting. Fromer also cited Kate Winslet, who wore a color blocked dress (pictured below), in order to enhance her curves, which is evidence that fashion’s purpose can be more than simply wearing an item without purpose), and how it may or may not be easily copyright-able, because of purpose or lack thereof.  

Image: Kate Winslet. Courtesy of Nutterbuster.com

Image: Kate Winslet. Courtesy of Nutterbuster.com

Gabi Asfour, founder and designer of threeASFOUR, an avant- garde fashion label, built on Fromer’s points by discussing his creation of the 3-D runway, and showcasing a dress shot with 160 cameras, perhaps as evidence of the intricacy of creating technology that is adaptable to fashion, but is also easily compromised. 
Examples of brands that use 3-D printing:

  • Nike- used 3-D printing for Vapor Laser talon football shoe
  • Dita Von Teese- debuted 3-D printed dress made from hardened nylon
  • Victoria’s Secret- made angel wings from millions of Swarovski crystal

These are companies that we are familiar with, and it is interesting to note that these companies spend millions of dollars creating these concepts, which eventually turn into wearable items, only to have them compromised, and sold under that company’s name. According to the panel, Shapeways, an online 3-D printing website, and global marketplace, was replicating counterfeit Cartier bracelets.  

Image: Courtesy of Raymond Lee Jewlers 

Image: Courtesy of Raymond Lee Jewlers 

The panel notes that it’s clear that 3-D printing has some benefits, as it may promote artistic expression, but for designers and those in the fashion industry it seems to prove to pose many threats. Some of these include: printing products illegally, access to more low-priced manufacturing, and promotion of consumer production, which would seriously damage the fashion industry. 

Julie Zerbo, Founder and Editor- in- Chief of The Fashion Law, summed up the idea of how 3-D printing could become more mainstream in the future by stating that it would have to become less expensive, but that fashion is likely to be the last field where regulation is imposed on those who choose to use technology in an illegal manner.  

For more information on the event and speakers that attended, click here. Full video recording of the event can be found here

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