Monday, September 13, 2010

Fordham’s New Fashion Law Institute Will Serve, Protect, Talk Shoes

Two dress forms grace the entrance of Fordham University Law professor Susan Scafidi’s new ground-floor office. One is hugged by a lavender RM by Roland Mouret moon dress, and the other wears a pink knockoff by the — perhaps ironically named — label Rare. “It’s no accident that I put pink dresses on there,” Scafidi says, gesturing to the dress forms. “Fashion is a pink-and-lavender discipline. It's associated with women and gay men, and there is an ongoing perception that this is a lighthearted subject. It can be, but the legal issues are every bit as complicated and hard to crack as in any other field.”

Scafidi is the director of Fordham University’s new Fashion Law Institute, the first of its kind, which officially launches September 8. The Institute, supported in part by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, will be the primary nerve center for the academic study of fashion-related legal issues; it'll also offer pro bono legal counseling to designers in need. “Fashion law is a new academic field and it’s new to even call it 'fashion law,' never mind to even conceive of it as a whole," says Scafidi.

It's been an eventful year for the pink-and-lavender discipline, one that will not only see the opening of the Fashion Law Institute, but may see the first legislative extension of limited intellectual-property protection bestowed on an industry long plagued by copycats. Last Thursday, New York senator Charles E. Schumer introduced a ten-page Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act to Congress (read the full text here), the third iteration of a bill that’s been argued twice before. Scafidi is no stranger to Washington, D.C., having grown up there, testified for fashion-related intellectual property issues, and worked closely with legislators on this bill (as well as past versions). The day after the bill officially dropped, Scafidi sat down with The Cut for a one-on-one about the forthcoming Fashion Law Institute and why it's so important for designers and retailers to really know the law.

Photo: From left, Susan Scafidi, academic director of Fordham's new Fashion Law Institute, Fordham Law School dean Michael Martin, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb and Sheila Foster, associate dean of academic affairs, at the Sept. 8 opening of the new institute. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times

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