Fashion Law: A Growing Think Tank For the Fashion Community

Originally posted 2018-04-30 1:31:52

cropped-Screen-Shot-2013-10-12-at-8.24.19-PMBy Sindy Wenjin Ding |

As the fashion industry has grown enormously in size and scope, a growing group of legal practitioners have accumulated insights and legal principles, created a whole new concept: Fashion Law! It undoubtedly preaches gospel to the numerous fashion companies and brands.

This article will serve as a roadmap for a series of articles, which will lead readers/fashion professionals to rethink about their businesses, just like being handed a magnifying glass to scan a piece of work from head to toe, understand some basic theories about Fashion Law and the practical legal services provided by Fashion Law lawyers. AMD LAW would like to share our understanding in this field with our readers in a form of blogging, also hope to represent our clients in the fashion industry and their interests both domestically and globally.

So, let’s get this cool topic started!

Aging Industry – Young Specialty

While being amazed by the splendidness of African bead crafts and brocade fabrics since Shang Dynasty of China, people actually have been inheriting and evolving one of the oldest industries in the world, fashion. With its role transformed from a trading commodity to consuming luxury goods, counsels and lawyers gradually got involved and gently impart the fashion community with a sight of legal advice. Small ideas gather, stream, and then distinct.

As a young product, Fashion Law is a surprisingly natural and successful creature that evolves from the interdisciplinary studies of fashion and the law. It is fascinating to watch the chemistry reactions between those two realms largely because that none of them are dry, mechanical systems, but full of tension and compatibility. Fashion Law is actually a compilation of different legal disciplines that incorporates issues ranging from intellectual property (copyright and trademark law, including brand licensing), domestic and international business transactions, textiles, merchandising, to employment and labor concerns, customs and consumer cultures. It is an emerging legal field, just like other objects of legal relations, serves its irreplaceable role in a delicate yet fast-changing fashion world.

Living Art – Legal Annotation

Although IP-related issues are indeed central in terms of the scope of fashion law, fashion law advisors take a more expansive, practice-oriented approach, thinking like a fashion designer from the birth of an inspiration to the execution and release, to put on a series of legal annotations to every link.

Fashion Law lives for witnessing and guarding any intellectual, artistic creations in fashion realm, which has not limited into apparel and accessories, but included textile production, modeling, media, finance, and the beauty and fragrance industries. As a brand develops, timely and proper registrations of copyright, trademark and design patents are a threshold protection. Licensing may become a central business concern, as the brand gets bigger and more profitable. On the way to that end, rigorous investment agreement and suitable financing plan need to be drafted and disseminated to potential investors. With the funding needed, legitimate employment contracts and code of conducts play a crucial role in the manufacturing process domestically and internationally, mainly including ethical compliance/sweatshop issues and labor issues for fashion models. Considering most basic American apparel is manufactured overseas, imported goods incur different duty rated depending on the customs classification of the goods. Then fashion counsels should be familiar with specialized customs in international trading to handle the potential conflicts between customs and importers. Fashion leaders also need effective legal approaches to fight with counterfeit goods that could possibly flood on websites and streets. Ultimately, to protect consumers’ rights, a reliable mechanism of reporting and interacting with consumers will be highly needed, furthermore, successfully brands leaders may want to extent their visions onto fashion and philanthropy, sustainability and corporate social responsibilities.

As you can see, every step in the loop generates legal work, and the good news is, an increasing number of law firms and experts dive into this field, contribute legal annotations to the particularities of fashion industry, a living art.

Cultural Bonds – Rights Initiatives

I still remembered how thrilled I was when New York passed Child Model Laws in June this year. It doesn’t only mean that the legislation essentially affords underage models the same protection as other child performers, but also shows that non-governmental organizations like Model’s Alliance (one of the bill’s largest proponents), the leading non-profit organization for designers, CFDA, model community, policy-makers and legislators are building connections and injecting this industry with more positive energy. Just like this, Fashion is culturally empowered, shaped, driven by law and policies.

With increasing legislative support and cultural bonds with educational organizations and academic institutes[1], fashion law emerged as not only a field but also a community of designers and lawyers, a bond between fashionistas and students, a forum for creators and scholars. Needless to say, the most persuasive force of all, the ones who could bring any skeptical concerns up to the front, are our readers, idea bringers, trend observers and fashion practitioners. The initiatives of finding out problems and protecting your own rights are absolutely the fundamental drive to any fashion law lawyers or experts. Pointed, effective legal services and strong right-protection awareness will mutually benefit from each other, ultimately improve the rigorousness of this field of legal discipline, as well as fuel the flourish of fashion industry itself.

A lot of discussion and cases about Fashion Law has been in the news recently. AMD LAW is going to launch a series of articles respectively introducing this area of law from various aspects. The following seven articles will focus on some main angels mentioned in this article respectively. Please stay tuned with our following articles. Lastly, if you have any comments, suggestions about this serious of article to interact with me, please send email to or go to our firm website to contact us.



2. Alexandra Steigrad, New York State Passes Labor Laws to Protect Child Models, WWD, June 14, 2013

3. Susan Scafidi, Fiat Fashion Law! The Launch of a Label – and a New Branch of Law, in Navigating Fashion Law 3 (2012)

4. Guillermo C. Jimenez, Barbara Kolsun, George Gottlieb and Marc Misthal, Fashion Law: Key Issues in an Emerging Legal Discipline, Reprinted with permission from the NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION JOURNAL OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, “BRIGHT IDEAS,” Fall 2010, Vol. 19, No. 2

[1] In 2006, the first American college course on fashion law taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. In 2008, Professor Susan Scafidi introduced the first American law school course on Fashion Law at Fordham Law School, and in 2010 Professor Scafidi established a Fashion Law Institute at Fordham. Brooklyn Law School and Cardozo Law School have scheduled or planned courses in Fashion Law as well.

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