Last week on April 20th 2018, The Fashion Law Chronicles had the pleasure of attending Fordham University’s eighth annual Fashion Law Symposium. The event was hosted by professor and pioneer of fashion law, Susan Scafidi. Scafidi who is the founder of The Fashion Law Institute beamed with excitement as she prepared to introduce panelists and greeted guests. Jeff Trexler, associate director and professor at Fordham, moderated the event, with a number of thought provoking questions and witty remarks about issues in the field of fashion law.The symposium was held on the school’s campus, with attorneys, designers, and industry professionals gathering to discuss the implications of technology, public policy, and design in fashion. Among some of the attendees were Stan Sherwood of Sherwood Associates, Craig Fleishman, counsel for Rebecca Minkoff, Antoinette Costa and Kristina Romanova, founders of Humans of Fashion Foundation, Daniel Bellizio partner from Bellizio + Igel, and Robin Gruber, Vice President Counsel for Chanel.
Pink flowers and delicious cuisine (“Munchies”- in a law school setting) were the backdrop for the annual symposium where five panels comprised of industry professionals from various backgrounds shared their insights on the field of fashion and the law. While there were a variety of opinions concerning how fashion law can survive the increasingly problematic issues that have arisen out of a society that is now driven by social media and technology, there was certainly a universal theme. Panelists agreed that transparency in fashion is necessary to protect and propel fashion law forward.
The human element was a central concept in understanding how designers and industry professionals can set the standard for protecting the fashion industry. Denning Rodriguez from Holland Knight noted that humans are an integral component of determining whether or not a fashion company is successful. Denning cited that, “The life cycle of a fashion company may be determined by technology.” He posed the question of how industry professionals could potentially alter the life cycle of a company if documents from items that are imported and exported are missing. Asking the question of how can we streamline the process for companies who do not have the technology to close the gaps in regulatory issues was central to other themes explored at the symposium. This statement was profound, as it echoed the theme of human interaction, which is one of the most important factors in fashion law.
Human interaction has however proven that it’s difficulties span further than we can imagine. Lately, Hollywood has been under intense pressure to crack down on the cruel abuse allegations that have ravaged the industry. Antoinette Costa and Kristina Romanova, founders of Humans of Fashion Foundation may have cracked the code for how sexual abuse is documented in the fashion industry. Costa and Romanova are launching an app that could not only revamp how sexual abuse is dealt with legally, but how our society addresses sexual abuse from an emotional standpoint. The app, is slated to have doctors, lawyers, and counsellors who will help makeup artists, models, photographers, and others who do not have resources to address issues of sexual misconduct. Both women, who have faced their own issues concerning sexually inappropriate behaviours in the workplace cite the lack of transparency and human interaction as reasons for launching the app. This could be a revolutionary concept, as it will provide round-the-clock support for those in the fashion industry. This could make it easier to crack down on the abuse in the industry. The app has received global attention and Cosmopolitan magazine has written an article about a young girl who donated money from her Bat Mitzvah to help with the launch of the app.
The cohesiveness of the symposium’s panels was certainly evident, as the Street Smart panel discussed the legal and ethical issues of paying homage to brands and artists. Sigrid Nelson, from Equinox asked the very vital question of, “Where do we draw the line when we are designing and we say something is “exclusive?” Again, the human element rears its head, as we are contended with the question of how humans and technology continue to impact whether or not a garment is deemed as exclusive, and if it is, what technology could be used to protect that exclusivity. This idea was directly tied to the second panel’s discussion of RFID tags which elevate the customer experience, but may allow the idea of exclusivity to prevail without any room for artistic homage to a brand. This is certainly relevant to street-style, as Daniel Bellizio from Bellizio + Igel states that, “Labels are getting removed and should be removed. “Streetwear” used to be named “urban wear”.” If these labels are removed, the question of cultural appropriation and counterfeiting may seem to lose their relevance.
Baptiste’ Ellard, designer and visual artist, joined the conversation with a very interesting guest. A Louis Vuitton boombox! The designer who cut up his mother’s Louis Vuitton bag and added Nike logos when he first started designing, makes a strong point about style and paying homage to fashion icons. As far as advice for protecting designs while using artistic creativity to pay homage, Ellard says that in order to build an effective relationship that pays homage designers should, Have the artist come to you. We’re doing it for the love not just for the dollar. When me and my friends were in high school we just did it to be cool – it was just a part of who we were,”
Similarly, Lauren Sherman, from Business of Fashion asks us how we can approach blogs and brands that pay an ode to innovators of fashion. The answer to this question she suspects lies with legal and public relations professionals. Lisa Keith from Steve Madden also joined in to note that “Copying hurts both sides.” Robin Gruber, from Chanel, made it clear (off the record) that Chanel’s protection practices go beyond cease- and-desist letters. Instead, the luxury brand has opted for buying domain names that seek to educate those willing to buy counterfeit.
Lastly, the event closed with a reception, “Under the Influence” to celebrate the 8th Annual Fashion Law Symposium’s contribution to the ever- changing field of fashion law.
You may find more information about The Fashion Law Institute at: https://fashionlawinstitute.com
Images provided by Laurel Marcus - http://blogger.lookonline.com/2018/04/new-york-fashion-cool-aid-by-laurel_22.html and Antoinette Costa https://twitter.com/antoniettecosta/status/989163317506736128