Fast Company

Fashion Gets Legalistic With Opening of Fordham University's Fashion Law Institute

Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America Give Designers access to much-needed legal services.

New York Fashion Week kicked off yesterday and just in time to protect young designers from piracy and other legal threats, Fordham University, along with its major supporter, Diane von Furstenberg, opened up the pioneering Fashion Law Institute. DVF says it's especially helpful in protecting young designers.

The Institute, according to its website, is the "world's first fashion law center," and will train lawyers on all the ins and outs of intellectual property, piracy, international trade, consumer culture, and other fashion-related concerns. (And look great doing it.)

The Institute's Director, Professor Susan Scafidi, comes with impressive credentials--a Duke, Yale, University of Chicago, and Berkeley graduate, the stylish Professor maintains the blog, Counterfeit Chic, and is the author of numerous publications, including Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law.

"As a designer who has been around for a long, long time, I can tell you, a lawyer who understands fashion is a very important thing," said von Furstenberg—she sued Forever 21 in March 2007 for copyright infringement over the retailer's "Sabrina" smock dress, which she said was a dupe of her "Cerisier" line. The two settled for an undisclosed sum. "As a designer, you have to protect yourself in so many ways, there are so many reasons a designer needs a lawyer and, for a young designer, it's even more important."

The Institute's website states: "The Institute will provide legal services for design students and designers, train the fashion lawyers and designers of the future, and offer information and assistance on issues facing the fashion industry."

[Image: Flickr user Art Comments]

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