Laying down the law
> Affendy Ali devotes his smarts for the arts
FASHIONABLE kids are typically the cool kids, but when it comes to law, it’s not popular to be in fashion. Not here and not yet, at least. Unlike environmental and human rights, fashion law is virtually unheard of in Malaysia. But on the forefront of a movement to raise awareness on the need of legal support within the local fashion scene and creative industry, is Affendy Ali.
“In most major cities in the west, they have law firms that advise retailers, fashion brands, emerging designers, and in the United States, the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America),” Affendy highlighted.
Sure enough, law schools in that part of the world offer fashion law programmes that educate aspiring barristers on intellectual property, business and finance, international trade and government regulation, as well as consumer culture and civil rights.
The University of Malaya graduate did not set out to make fashion law his niche; rather it was a calling that he chanced upon, one that also happens to complement his own dedication for sartorial excellence.
Prior to his current stint at government investment arm MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd, Affendy operated behind the scenes for Tsyahmi. For a year since the fashion label’s inception, he managed its legal affairs, public relations, business development and even (casually) photography. When the opportunity arose to transition to a corporation that “aims to spur the country’s creative industry”, it made perfect sense to make the switch.
“At the back of my head I thought, why help one entity when I can expand and help the creative industry as a whole?” the 28-year-old legal manager recounted.
Essentially, MyCreative Ventures invests in viable Malaysian creative businesses – their nature of which varies from performing arts, creative technology, to literature and of course, fashion and design – via equities or loans. Affendy’s role comes in at the contractual stage.
“My job is to advise the company on our investment and financing related matters. Basically, I vet through the terms of the financing agreements and make sure that the interests of MyCreative Ventures are best protected in all aspects in its contractual relationships with clients and external parties we have collaborations with,” he divulged.
Apart from that, the Kota Kinabalu native also takes care of the interests of MyCreative Ventures’ clients – when they enter a consignment contract with a retailer, for instance. Some of MyCreative Ventures’ clients in the fashion category include Pearly Wong, Nelissa Hilman and Off The Rack Asia.
The challenge is helping these creatives understand the necessity of undergoing certain legal processes, but Affendy assures that it is also the most rewarding part of his job.
“When I was in law school, my lecturers would always say that one day we’ll become lawyers, judges, or work for the Attorney-General’s Chambers, but to never forget to contribute to society. So I feel very much obliged to make people understand the law and legal jargons because it’s important, especially for people without a business or legal background,” he reiterated.
Practising law in the creative industry may not be as lucrative as in construction, oil and gas, or logistics and transportation, but Affendy believes that the former needs just as much support. Like any industry, the creative trade thrives on a dynamic ecosystem.
“In fashion, it doesn’t end at the designers – there are manufacturers, retailers, PR agencies, stylists and the media. MyCreative Ventures fills in the gap that fashion designers have, which is financing.
“I’ve got lawyer friends who are for human and environmental rights, and I respect them for it because those are causes. But I also tell budding lawyers and law students that there’s an untapped industry that really needs professional attention, not only from lawyers but accountants, finance experts and so on,” said Affendy.
Affendy was in legal practice for two years before assisting local fashion designer Tengku Mohamed Syahmi then taking the helm of legal manager at MyCreative Ventures.