Fashion law is a field of law that encompasses the issues that impact the fashion industry. Key areas of interest include intellectual property; business and finance, with subcategories ranging from employment and labor law to real estate; international trade and government regulation, including questions of safety and sustainability; dress codes and religious apparel; consumer culture; privacy and wearable tech; and civil rights. Fashion law also includes related areas such as textile production, modeling, media, and the cosmetics and perfume industries.
Fashion law has been used in practice in both in-house and law firm settings for decades, particularly in France, where protection for fashion designs has been in place for over a century. Large multi-city law firms and smaller, more specialized firms have increasingly begun to identify fashion law as a practice area, even dedicating groups of attorneys to fashion law groups. Such firms boast client lists that include fashion and design houses, apparel manufacturers and retailers, and luxury goods companies, providing “advice on all aspects of the business at every phase of a product’s lifecycle, beginning with the creation of a design and continuing through to marketing and distribution of the product.” (ArentFox).
In 2011, the New York City Bar Association announced the creation of a new committee on Fashion Law, which will study and comment on a wide range of legal issues associated with the fashion industry. According to the Bar Association, “The establishment of the Fashion Law Committee is based on an increased interest in the legal side of the fashion industry in recent years, as demonstrated by, among other things, the Fordham Law School’s opening of a ‘Fashion Law Institute’ in conjunction with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Senator Charles Schumer’s recent introduction of legislation on copyright-like protection for apparel, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recently announced initiatives to grow New York City’s fashion industry.” (NYBar).
Among the issues the Committee is expected to examine are customs disputes, human rights issues arising from overseas production, trademark and copyright issues and real estate concerns. While other City Bar committees deal with many of these issues, there have been increasing requests from Association members for a specific committee to focus on fashion. (id).
On a national scale, the Federal Bar Association recognizes fashion law as a practice area and has for several years dedicated specific conference events to the exploration of fashion law, including discussions on the following issues: New Issues in IP; Emerging Technologies; Licensing Issues; Importing and Exporting; Department Store Issues; Emerging Markets; and Fashion Financing, among others.
Origins in Academia
Fashion law has only recently been labeled as such and marketed as a field of study by law schools. In 2010, the world’s first academic center dedicated to fashion law (the Fashion Law Institute) launched with the support of Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Since then, a number of other institutions around the world have offered courses or programs in the area of fashion law. These include the University of Milan, the University of Insubria, the Instituto Brasileiro de Negócios e Direito da Moda, University at Buffalo Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York Law School, New York University, the Fashion Law Project at Loyola Law School, the Moda Hukuku Enstitusu in Turkey, and the annual Fashion Law Week at Howard University.