Fashion = Art + Commerce

When I started law school, I was no spring chicken. I'd already spent nearly ten years in corporate retail at various merchandising positions. The companies I worked for were mostly luxury good retailers and while the glamour quotient was pretty high, my happiness level wasn't. I wanted to do something more. I wanted to help people. Yet, I also wanted to remain in the only industry I ever knew and loved: fashion. The idea of becoming an attorney for fashion designers was born. However there was one small problem. According to a professor / dean at my school there was "no such thing" as fashion law. Undeterred, I continued my studies, focusing on intellectual property (IP) law.  One year later the very first fashion law textbook was released. Soon after that, I learned that the Fashion Law Institute was recently established at Fordham University's Law School by the fashion law pioneer, Professor Susan Scafidi. Shortly thereafter, the Fashion Law Institute offered a Summer Intensive Bootcamp- i.e. a crash course in all things fashion law related. After enduring many long, tedious, lonely arguments with fellow IP students regarding the merits of giving fashion artisans increased IP protection, I jumped at the chance to be around some like minded people! Admitted into the program, I spent a whirlwind of two weeks in New York City attending fashion law field trips by day and going to class at night. Safe to say, there is clearly now "such a thing" as Fashion Law.

The existence and importance of the Fashion Law field is further evidenced by the success of the Fashion Law Institute's Second Annual Spring Symposium entitled FASHION = ART + COMMERCE. I found the the title of the symposium alone to be very intriguing because it is the most basic, fundamental and clear definition of what fashion really is: a combination of art and commerce. Based on the event's astute title- I knew that this event would be exciting and provocative. Despite the fact that I am located in Minnesota, I made a special trip to the city to attend this all day fashion law event. I was not disappointed.

The symposium covered a very range of current issues in fashion law. There were four panels in total and in the coming weeks, I will be discussing each of these topics more in depth. Here is a very brief summary on the panels and my initial thoughts / reactions:

Panel 1: IPO, Yes or No?

This panel discussed a very new and hot topic about fashion houses going public. Due to the recent companies like Prada and Michael Kors making public offerings (and their great success in doing so) many in the fashion community are now wondering if their own brands should follow suit. Fashion going public is not a common practice and this panel debated the merits and disadvantages of doing so. Since my business law background is not strong and I knew little in the way of Wall Street, I was very excited for this discussion which turned out to be a wealth of knowledge and information.

Panel 2: Beyond Whac-a-Mole: New Initiaitives in Intellectual Property Enforcement

Unlike the IPO issues, IP enforcement is an area of law near and dear to my heart. (See the article "A Case Against the ACTA" (33 Cardozo L. Rev. 1131) published in February 2012 on which I was a research assistant. While I disagreed with the author, Prof. Kenneth Port regarding the importance and necessity of the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the fight against counterfeit goods, working on this article helped me to develop a strong understanding of what sorts of IP enforcement currently exist and their efficacy.) Even though I am relatively knowledgeable in this area, speakers from the International Trademark Association (INTA) and International Anti-Counterfeit Coalition (IACC), among others, helped me have a deeper understanding of what is currently being done to protect IP rights and what other initiatives are now being undertaken.

Panel 3: BRIColage: Emerging Patterns in Fashion and International Trade

Another area anyone interested in IP protection (particularly counterfeiting) may know something about, this panel provided invaluable insight as well. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are seen as the greatest producers of counterfeit goods however, they are also the newest emerging economies. Their robust growth mixed with their IP infringements of other worldwide brands was presented by a panel of persons who were either from or work in the countries they represented. Arguably, this panel provided to be the most thought provoking and intriguing to me as many viewpoints were presented that I did not necessarily agree with. However, I love a good challenge and enjoy being forced to work outside my comfort zone. This panel created many ideas for research projects and new articles in my head!

Panel 4: ADMonishments: Where Fashion Law and Advertising Meet

A fascinating panel that covered the issues of truth in advertising. With so many ads being photoshopped to unrealistic standards, there is a big controversy over whether these ads should come with a label denoting that refinishing techniques were used in the creation of the ad. The more common argument in this arena is that models are made to be unrealistically thin looking creating an unspoken pressure in the media for women to look a certain way which isn't even possible. Or celebrities' faces being refinished to the point of beyond perfection when the actual truth is anything but. These topics were discussed as well as the latest pressure on beauty campaigns to be truthful in what their products can do and how images are manipulated to create "after" shots / results which simply were not true. A recent example was a Cover Girl mascara ad featuring Taylor Swift. The ad stated that the mascara gave "2x more volume" however, this comparison was made not against other mascaras but rather, bare lashes. In addition, Cover Girl admitted that "Taylor's lashes" in the photo had actually been added on digitally after the shoot. I was unaware that there were so many people and agencies that police these ads and call companies out on their practices. As a beauty product junkie, this was a great panel that covered both the social and legal issues such practices present.

Like I said before, I will cover these topics much more in-depth in the coming weeks. I am so fortunate that I was able to attend such an event as I always come away with a wealth of knowledge, inspiration and drive to learn more. Once again, the Fashion Law Institute proved to be such a fantastic educational experience. In addition, it gave me the chance to talk with some of the industry's most powerful and influential people who create and mold the fashion law field every day. I can't wait to go back!

(Images above via The Met's "Savage Beauty" exhibit which showcased Alexander McQueen's work; a perfect example of Fashion = Art + Commerce.)