Being a sociocultural phenomenon, fashion has historically always been subject to regulation in one way or another, starting from the questions of who should wear what all the way through to the issues of trade restrictions and wealth tax. Thus, the Russian Emperor Pavel I, who saw a symbol of the bourgeois revolution in French clothes, issued a ban on women’s wide-brim hats and men’s top hats. During the time of Napoleon, France had an order prohibiting women from wearing such ‘men’s clothes’ as trousers. The order was formally abolished only several years ago. Many Muslim countries still have a ban on short skirts.
Yet, the legal framework for fashion as an independent area in global practices has appeared quite recently. The need for a separate comprehensive regulation of the industry is primarily determined by the industry’s extraordinary growth rates. Thus, today the fashion industry is ranked at number five among most capital-intensive industries in the modern economy. According to forecasts by Boston Consulting Group, the global luxury market will reach USD 1.18 trillion by 2020.
There is obviously a trend in western legal systems to shape new directions in law in the wake of branches of the economy enjoying turbulent growth and based on the demands of the market. Thus, sports law, energy law and entertainment law, among others, have come into being and are rapidly developing.
In the Russian legal tradition, branches of law are distinguished based on the specific subject matter and method of regulation. This has resulted in a situation in which, from an academic viewpoint, the only indisputable division is between public law and private law. All other specialisations are singled out as branches of legislation based on their subject matter, e.g. everything that relates to entrepreneurial activity, irrespective of the industry or branch, is referred to under the blanket term of ‘commercial law’. In western jurisdictions, specifically in Anglo-Saxon common law jurisdictions, rather the opposite approach is applied of moving from the specific to the general; this involves an industry or a branch of the economy being the basis on which the corresponding rules of law are built. All of this taken together is referred to as a branch of law. The branch-based approach makes it possible to formulate legal regulation that meets the particular requirements of a specific branch of economy. This is what happened with fashion law, which is nothing but the body of rules regulating the fashion industry.
Until very recently, the market for fashion articles and luxury goods has been studied only from the perspective of marketing and specific aspects of management, but not from the perspective of applicable law and legal regulation. As Business Insider wrote two years ago, it is rather peculiar that it took lawyers so much time to pay attention to this globally expanding industry.
It is believed that fashion law was singled out as a separate branch of law after the publication of Jeanne Belhumeur’s thesis “Le Droit International de la Mode” in French in 2000. In 2004, another weighty work “Droit du luxe”, dedicated to the law of luxury goods, was published by a group of French lawyers.
Subsequently, the Americans took up the baton, when in 2006 Professor Susan Scafidi launched the first LLM course in Fashion Law at Fordham Law School. As early as in 2010, a separate institution dedicated to fashion law, the Fashion Law Institute, was launched with the support of the famous designer Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Therefore, in English and American legal literature, this area was referred to as ‘fashion law’, which is the generally accepted term in today’s world. Fashion law is defined as the branch of law that embraces the legal substance of style, including issues that may emerge during the ‘lifecycle’ of a piece of clothing, starting from the original idea of a designer and up to the moment when the piece of clothing ends up in a buyer’s wardrobe. In addition to the industry of clothing and accessories, fashion law also covers such branches as the consumer goods industry (textile production), the modelling industry, the media, cosmetics and the perfume industry.
Moreover, the concepts of ‘fashion’, ‘style’ and ‘luxury’ have long ceased to refer only to external appearance. Today, this is rather a lifestyle in general. Therefore, fashion brands are increasingly interested in maintaining high standards and the lifestyle of their clients even outside their boutiques. For example, Moschino, Armani, Missoni, and Louis Vuitton elected to invest in their own hotel businesses, while PRADA and LVMH have purchased a chain of old Milano pastry shops.
Consequently, fashion law is a comprehensive specialised area based on IP, civil and commercial, customs, international and employment law. Issues relating to real estate, advertising and labelling, combating counterfeit products, protecting commercial secrets, and consumer rights have become issues of particular significance in fashion law.
Given the multifaceted subject matter of legal regulation, it is still premature to talk about fashion law having matured as a concept. Business analysts, however, are predicting a golden future for fashion law, not only abroad but in Russia too.