THE LAW OF FASH­ION

SUMAIYA DE’MAR

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - { TEXT: JULIE GRA­HAM | IMAGES © EBEN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY }

DUR­BAN-BORN SUMAIYA DE’MAR HAS AL­WAYS HAD A PEN­CHANT FOR FASH­ION. FROM A YOUNG AGE, SHE WAS FAS­CI­NATED BY THE GLOSSY PAGES OF FASH­ION MAG­A­ZINES AND THE GLITZ AND GLAM­OUR OF FASH­ION SHOWS. GROW­ING UP, FASH­ION WAS A BIG PART OF HER ARTIS­TIC OUT­LET. WHEN SHE FIN­ISHED HIGH SCHOOL, HOW­EVER, SHE WENT ON TO STUDY LAW – ANOTHER PAS­SION OF HERS. IT WASN’T LONG BE­FORE DE’MAR DIS­COV­ERED THE PER­FECT WAY TO COM­BINE HER PAS­SIONS. In­Flight RE­CENTLY CAUGHT UP WITH THIS YOUNG, IN­SPIR­ING AND SUC­CESS­FUL LAWYER.

In­Flight: De­spite be­ing a self-con­fessed fash­ion­ista, law has al­ways been in your blood and you grad­u­ated with an LLB de­gree in 2010. Where did you study and what made you de­cide to choose law as a ca­reer?

Sumaiya De’Mar (SD): I stud­ied law at the Uni­ver­sity of South Africa (Unisa), spe­cial­is­ing in In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Law and grad­u­at­ing with seven dis­tinc­tions. Af­ter spend­ing sev­eral years work­ing in the le­gal pro­fes­sion, my love of fash­ion led to my in­volve­ment in nu­mer­ous projects within the fash­ion in­dus­try, from trend fore­cast­ing and fash­ion de­sign­ing to styling and edit­ing.Through th­ese roles I gained valu­able in­sight, ex­pe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge and a holis­tic un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try.This led to my de­ci­sion to ap­ply my le­gal ex­per­tise to the fash­ion in­dus­try, thus pi­o­neer­ing “fash­ion law” in South Africa by found­ing SA Fash­ion Law.

In­Flight: What ex­actly is fash­ion law?

SD: Law is some­thing that has do­min­ion over ev­ery in­dus­try and fash­ion is no ex­cep­tion. Fash­ion law is a spe­cialised area of

law that cov­ers is­sues re­lat­ing to the busi­ness of fash­ion, from con­cep­tion to brand pro­tec­tion.

Fash­ion law is a com­bi­na­tion of sev­eral dif­fer­ent le­gal dis­ci­plines. At the heart of it lies in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty law, which cov­ers copy­right, trade­marks, patents and de­sign law. Fun­da­men­tal is­sues also in­clude busi­ness and con­tracts, em­ploy­ment law, me­dia law, cy­ber (IT) law, as well as ethics and sus­tain­abil­ity. Fash­ion law also ex­tends to re­lated in­dus­tries such as pho­tog­ra­phy, mod­el­ling, mu­sic, film and me­dia.

In­Flight: What are some of the biggest prob­lems fac­ing the fash­ion and ap­parel in­dus­try in terms of le­gal­i­ties and busi­ness deal­ings?

SD: En­trepreneurs in devel­op­ing coun­tries like South Africa do busi­ness based on trust and ver­bal agree­ments – un­til some­body gets dou­ble-crossed. Even if both par­ties have hon­est in­ten­tions, de­tails of an agree­ment can eas­ily be for­got­ten if they have not been writ­ten down. When it comes to busi­ness trans­ac­tions, writ­ten con­tracts should dom­i­nate ev­ery im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship, in­clud­ing those with sup­pli­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers, re­tail­ers, ser­vice providers and es­pe­cially em­ploy­ees. En­trepreneurs shouldn’t de­lay for­mal­is­ing their le­gal agree­ments, as it sets the tone of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in do­ing busi­ness le­git­i­mately, thereby at­tract­ing the right cal­i­bre of col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Also, the value of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, par­tic­u­larly in our dig­i­tal era, should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. Be­ing suc­cess­ful is no longer just about cre­at­ing fab­u­lous de­signs. It has be­come more im­por­tant not to com­mit the biggest faux pas, by leav­ing de­signs un­pro­tected and fall­ing vic­tim to copy­cats.There is a dis­tinc­tion be­tween im­i­ta­tion and in­spi­ra­tion.

It is cru­cial that en­trepreneurs see the law as a way to re­duce risk in all as­pects of their busi­nesses and safe­guard their brands. SA Fash­ion Law of­fers a be­spoke ser­vice tai­lored to the chal­lenges of each busi­ness. It in­cludes draft­ing of con­tracts, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­tec­tion, and deal­ing with in­fringe­ments. The aim of SA Fash­ion Law is to bring for­mal­ity to busi­ness trans­ac­tions whilst af­ford­ing ac­cess to le­gal pro­tec­tion.

In­Flight: What have been some of your most mem­o­rable suc­cesses as a fash­ion lawyer so far?

SD: There are many, but I would have to say: be­ing the first per­son to pi­o­neer fash­ion law in South Africa by launch­ing SA Fash­ion Law; be­ing cho­sen by Fash­ion Rev­o­lu­tion – a South African NPO – to be their Di­rec­tor of Fash­ion Law and Ethics in 2015; pre­sent­ing the first fash­ion law lec­ture in South Africa to FEDISA’s BA Fash­ion De­gree Hon­ours stu­dents 2016; and be­ing cho­sen by the Busi­ness­women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa as a fi­nal­ist in their Busi­ness Achiever Award in 2017 in the Pro­fes­sional Cat­e­gory.

In­Flight: What are the chal­lenges you have faced set­ting up such a unique en­deav­our, and how have you over­come them?

SD: It was a chal­lenge set­ting up a busi­ness that was un­heard of in South Africa. I over­came this chal­lenge by shar­ing in­for­ma­tion through talks at events and con­fer­ences, net­work­ing with peo­ple in the in­dus­try, and fo­cussing on a PR strat­egy so that peo­ple be­came more aware of the im­por­tance of fash­ion law in South Africa.

In­Flight: Do you prac­tise other kinds of law?

SD: SA Fash­ion Law has the sup­port of a net­work of var­i­ous le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers and spe­cial­ists, thereby be­ing ide­ally po­si­tioned to cover other ar­eas of law to help busi­nesses ad­dress their le­gal needs.

In­Flight: Let’s talk fash­ion. How do you be­lieve fash­ion in­flu­ences our so­ci­ety?

SD: Fash­ion sym­bol­izes the spirit of the times, and in our so­ci­ety fash­ion it­self is a re­flec­tion of so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural changes.The in­ter­net has changed the game, so many fash­ion lovers fol­low their own rules, in­spired by what they see on the in­ter­net or street style pho­tog­ra­phy. Now more than ever, it is im­por­tant to stay in­formed about fast fash­ion ver­sus slow fash­ion, and fo­cus­ing on is­sues such as ethics and sus­tain­abil­ity.

As the world con­tin­ues to evolve, so does fash­ion. There is a strong move­ment to­wards eth­i­cal fash­ion and the rise of in­de­pen­dent de­signer la­bels, which can only be seen as a move­ment in the right di­rec­tion.

In­Flight: How would you de­scribe your own style?

SD: My style de­pends on what my agenda holds for the day. If I’m headed to busi­ness meet­ings, I like power dress­ing with a touch of so­phis­ti­cated el­e­gance. For an evening out, I love glam­orous dresses and killer stilet­tos.

In­Flight: What do you en­joy do­ing in your free time?

SD: In my free time I en­joy be­ing cre­ative by de­sign­ing my own cloth­ing, jew­ellery and ac­ces­sories, and I in­tend to spear­head a col­lec­tion in the near fu­ture. I en­joy do­ing yoga and med­i­tat­ing. I also love mu­sic and play­ing gui­tar, and just do­ing things that keep me mo­ti­vated and in­spired.

In­Flight: What are three items you sim­ply can­not live with­out?

SD: My lap­top is vi­tal to my work; a book that en­riches my mind; and lip balm is es­sen­tial.

Fash­ion law is emerg­ing through­out the world, and has a big pres­ence in the United States, the United King­dom,Aus­tralia and now in South Africa. SA Fash­ion Law’s aim is to cul­ti­vate a new gen­er­a­tion of fash­ion law prac­ti­tion­ers in South Africa through train­ing in the form of a se­ries of Fash­ion Law Mas­ter Classes. For more in­for­ma­tion go to www.safash­ion­law.co.za.

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