FASH­ION LAWYERS WALK THE TALK

Villa 88 - - Contents -

Diana Ha­madé Al Ghu­rair of­fers an in­sight into the world of fash­ion lawyers

FASH­ION, FOR MOST LAWYERS, HAS been a hit or miss. Fash­ion lawyers are not nec­es­sar­ily fash­ion­able, but a knowl­edge and pas­sion for fash­ion are vi­tal. They are lawyers who spe­cial­ize in the busi­ness of fash­ion. Although, as a prac­tice, it is quite new, it is in­deed a fast-grow­ing niche that law firms world­wide have been set­ting up as a prac­tice, hir­ing lawyers with fash­ion law de­grees to ren­der their ser­vices.

Lawyers in the fash­ion busi­ness say both le­gal knowl­edge and an in­ter­est in the in­dus­try are re­quired to make the most cost-ef­fec­tive de­ci­sions on be­half of clients. It also helps to un­der­stand re­tail, and how on­line fash­ion works. But an ob­ses­sion with clothes is op­tional.

Fash­ion law is an area of law that deals with in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty (copy­right and trade­mark law, in­clud­ing brand li­cens­ing), do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness trans­ac­tions, mer­chan­dis­ing, em­ploy­ment and cus­toms (im­port/ex­port is­sues). Fash­ion law clients in­clude de­sign­ers, fash­ion houses, dis­trib­u­tors, man­u­fac­tur­ers, mod­el­ling agen­cies, re­tail­ers, and pho­tog­ra­phers. Fash­ion lawyers may either work for es­tab­lished fash­ion and lux­ury goods com­pa­nies, or out­side the com­pany for law firms.

An out­look study in 2015, un­der­taken by Deloitte & Touche, showed that value of de­sign in the UAE stood at $27.6 bil­lion. That com­pares with about $100 bil­lion in the Mid­dle East and North Africa re­gion, and a global value of $2.3 tril­lion. High growth rates are fore­cast for de­sign in the UAE, with the big­gest el­e­ments of the in­dus­try for fash­ion, which takes 74 per cent of the to­tal, fol­lowed by ar­chi­tec­ture.

The Dubai De­sign Dis­trict (d3) set up as a hub for the de­sign com­mu­nity in the re­gion, is shap­ing Dubai’s fu­ture as a lead­ing des­ti­na­tion of the fash­ion in­dus­try. Be­ing home to the re­gion’s grow­ing com­mu­nity of fash­ion de­sign­ers and style in­no­va­tors, fash­ion lawyers are ul­ti­mately sought af­ter, and will be­come part of this dis­trict as providers of le­gal ser­vices.

Fash­ion houses and de­sign­ers in the re­gion both face unique chal­lenges spe­cific to their in­dus­try. They re­quire at­tor­neys who un­der­stand the na­ture of short sea­sons and ever-chang­ing prod­uct cy­cles, pres­sures sur­round­ing coun­ter­feit goods, and the is­sues of un­fair com­pe­ti­tion. Valu­able as­sets in the fash­ion busi­ness com­prise not only in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights, but also trade ar­range­ments, con­tracts, and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy sys­tems.

The ques­tion for lawyers is whether fash­ion law is as glam­orous as it sounds. The an­swer is: it may well be, es­pe­cially where the head­line news be­ing made by the fash­ion busi­ness of dis­putes by lux­ury brands, such as the le­gal bat­tle be­tween LVMH and Her­mès fol­low­ing LVMH’S in­creased stake in the brand. The lo­cal fash­ion busi­ness also had its share of break­ing news, with the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cen­tre (DIFC) liq­ui­dat­ing its ma­jor­ity in­vest­ment in Vil­lam­oda in 2008 – the ex­act amount of the in­vest­ment was not dis­closed – fol­lowed by iconic US de­part­ment store Saks Fifth Av­enue clos­ing its Dubai store af­ter nearly 11 years of busi­ness.

It’s un­likely that these lawyers will make it to the FROW at Fash­ion Weeks, yet they get to work with some glam­orous clients on some in­no­va­tive le­gal is­sues. For a lawyer to make it in this busi­ness, it takes un­der­stand­ing such clients’ needs and keep­ing abreast of changes in their trends.

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