ⓘ Fashion law

Fashion law

ⓘ Fashion law

Fashion law is a legal field encompassing issues that arise throughout the life of an article of clothing or a fashion accessory. Fundamental issues in fashion law 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, modelling, media, and the cosmetics and perfume industries.


1. History

Fashion has been subject to legal regulation throughout history, from sumptuary laws that limit who can wear certain garments to trade restrictions and varying degrees of intellectual property protection. However, the conceptualization of fashion law as a distinct legal field is relatively recent.

A University of Geneva thesis was published on ’Le Droit International de la Mode’’ in 2000, which did not receive wide distribution. 2004, a thesis about the legal protection of fashion design was published in Switzerland.

In May 2004, a group of French lawyers led by Annabelle Gauberti published a supplement entitled "Droit du luxe"which translates into either "law of luxury goods" or luxury law" in the prestigious French legal magazine Revue Lamy Droit des Affaires. This supplement explored various specific legal and tax issues at stake, in the fashion and luxury goods sectors, and was the second conceptualization ever of the interactions between the legal field and the fashion and luxury goods industries. Indeed, while Europeans prefer to refer to this sub-legal field as the law of luxury goods, Americans prefer to use the more democratic term of "fashion law".

In 2006, Professor Susan Scafidi offered the first course in Fashion Law at Fordham Law School. Fashion Law courses were also developed and offered to designers at the Fashion Institute of Technology by Guillermo Jimenez and Parsons School of Design by Deborah McNamara at this time as well. In 2008 Susan Scafidi wrote that fashion law was only then starting to be recognized as a distinct area of law.

In 2010, the worlds first academic center dedicated 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 Negocios 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, the annual Fashion Law Week at Howard University, and McGill University Faculty of Law.

Fashion law has also developed into an established field of practice and study. In 2010, designer turned lawyer, Brittany Rawlings, headed up the first Fashion Law practice group dedicated entirely to issues that arise throughout the life of a fashion business. The New York City Bar Association has had a dedicated Fashion Law Committee since January 2011 and the New York County Lawyers Association has had a Fashion Law Subcommittee since September 2011. In 2014 in London, Tania Phipps-Rufus Fashion & Law PhD candidate, Consultant & Fashion Law Expert founded Fashion Law & Business and delivers lectures, masterclasses, events and workshops for those that want to know more about the business of fashion and law. In the same year, The Global Fashion Project in Miami launched their Fashion Law Initiative.

While double-digit turnover growth is being generated by many companies involved in the fashion and luxury goods sectors, an increasing number of lawsuits is filed in this industry and, as a result, more and more legal practitioners focus their practice on this particular industry and sector. An international association of lawyers involved in fashion law, ialci, was founded in 2013, in order to federate practitioners around the world on common know-how and event projects pertaining to fashion law and the law of luxury goods.


2. Issues


Legal issues in the production of clothing and accessories include

  • source indication.
  • garment district zoning, and
  • worker safety and other labor practices,


Legal issues addressed in connection with marketing include

  • deceptive advertising.
  • licensing, and
  • labeling requirements,

2.1. Issues Intellectual Property

Intellectual property protection has been a substantial legal concern in fashion since the emergence of fashion brands in the 19th century. It has been the subject of congressional debate, multiple academic articles, and the first fashion law blog, as well as a major exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Key issues include

  • the use of design patents as an alternative or supplement to copyright protection, and
  • utility patents, particularly in connection with advances in technology,
  • comparative international standards.
  • the scope of copyright protection,
  • trademark infringement and counterfeit goods,

A prominent related issue has been cultural appropriation, such as the use of Native American or religious designs by commercial fashion brands.


2.2. Issues Manufacturing

Legal issues in the production of clothing and accessories include

  • source indication.
  • garment district zoning, and
  • worker safety and other labor practices,

2.3. Issues Marketing

Legal issues addressed in connection with marketing include

  • deceptive advertising.
  • licensing, and
  • labeling requirements,

2.4. Issues Retail

Legal issues connected with the retail environment include

  • discrimination based on racial profiling, and
  • consumer data privacy and the security of credit card information,
  • real-estate leasing and ownership.

2.5. Issues Ethics, Sustainability, and Economic Development

Concerns pertaining to fashion ethics, sustainability and economic development have had a substantial impact on the industry, affecting both the legal framework and self-regulation initiatives. Important issues have included

  • organic certification,
  • fair trade fashion, and
  • the regulation of digitally altered images,
  • greenwashing,
  • the impact of philanthropic initiatives and clothing donation programs, such as the buy-one-give-one business model.
  • supply-chain monitoring and certification standards, such as the Higg Index and SA8000 certification.

2.6. Issues International Trade

In addition to the international implications of issues notes above, fashion law also addresses other matters connected to international business transactions, including

  • transfer pricing taxation, and
  • grey market goods
  • customs duties.
  • import and export quotas,

2.7. Issues Modeling Law

The legal status of models has become a prominent issue in fashion law, as exemplified by

  • efforts to curb fashion-related human trafficking.
  • New Yorks enactment of a statute giving underage models protection under the states child labor law,
  • The regulation of models weight in places such as Madrid, Milan, and Israel,
  • antitrust enforcement in relation to model pay rates, and