Fashion attorneys, law students and fashion industry figures convened at the Cardozo School of Law for a symposium this week to discuss pertinent topics in the fashion industry and determine how to address these topics from a legal perspective.
Hosted by Cardozo's FAME Center for fashion, arts, media and entertainment law, along with the Cardozo Fashion Law Society, the symposium addressed the theme of innovation in fashion.
Through a series of panels and discussions moderated by the school's law professors, practicing counselors and brand executives educated attendees on the pressing issues of sustainability, technology and retail. The main themes throughout the day were discussing how laws can help fashion innovation, and legal concerns innovations bring up.
How can legislation push for sustainability?
In the first panel of the day, discussing Corporate Social Responsibility: Creating (and Maintaining) Sustainable Fashion, vice president of social consciousness for Eileen Fisher, Amy Hall, discussed the measures her brand has been taking and expressed a need for more legal aid.
"We need a lot more legislation. We could really make a dent towards lowering our greenhouse gas emission, et cetera. But it would also give brands like us, who are trying to do the right thing, an easier time sourcing the fibers we need to support our ethical choices. So that's the piece of incentivizing brands."
She continued, "And when it comes to brands who mainly source oversees, I wonder about imposing a transparency bill. We need to disclose not just where something was made, but where it was sourced, and how much people were paid."
Michael Neuman, corporate counsel to Marquee Brands, agreed with Hall's points, and added that in his experiences, he has learned that implementing legal incentive through tax codes are not the way to go.
"Tax code usually isn’t the most efficient way to influence change," he explained. Almost always, you can push people in certain ways with tax incentives, but at the end of the day it’s the banker making the money off of that.
Legal concerns of wearable tech
Following the topic of innovations in sustainable thinking, discussion led into the changing technological landscape that is moving into the apparel industry. During the New Frontier: Technology in Fashion panel, attorneys with experience in the tech industry laid out notions that fashion brands need to keep in mind while creating wearable tech.
Amongst the top concerns are protecting inventions and technology and keeping data private. Both Preetha Chakrabarti, who is counsel at Crowell & Moring, and Barry Lewin, partner at Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman, P.C., learned from experience in trademark and patents that protecting products in wearable tech is not as straightforward as with other product categories.
According to Olivera Medenica, partner at Dunnington Bartholow & Miller LLP, lawmakers are just starting to take notice of data privacy concerns with wearable tech. And in a similar regard, government agencies still figuring out whether or not wearable tech items should be regulated.
"We don’t have strict standards in the US in terms of data collection," she said. "We have certainly a best practices that companies should follow, but if you’re not gathering something that would be considered for medical use, chances are you’re not going to be covered by the stricter legislation that’s out there."
"Wearables in most instances don’t really fall within the medical device category. I’m not quite seeing the marriage between wearable technology and medicine. To that end, I’m not seeing HIPAA being applicable to wearable tech," she said, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that provides data privacy to medical information.
Medenica continued, "In terms of the FDA, most [wearable tech products] are not considered a device that would be regulated. To determine this, you have to ask yourself if the product will be intrusive, does it make medical claims.
"The other arena to be careful about is the FDC, which regulates all kinds of representations made by companies to the public. You have to be careful as a company if you’re making claims, questioning whether you're misleading the public, or if you're making claims that are false."