It is a breakthrough moment for fashion: Fordham University in New York has announced the opening of two fashion law degrees to start in Autumn 2015. The two degrees are the first of their kind and will be part of the school’s Fashion Law Institute directed by professor Susan Scafidi. During the press conference at the Lincoln Center campus, CFDA president and fashion copyright activist Diane Von Furstenberg was present to offer support to the programme as a financial investor herself. The designer “firmly believes this program will become a powerful tool in the fashion world and beyond, and help us all as an industry —lawyers or not — better understand, grow, and protect our businesses.”
The Fordham University’s Fashion Institute will offer two different programmes, one for non-lawyer industry players who wish to learn more about the legal aspect of fashion, called a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) and another degree for people who already possess a law degree and are keen to learn about fashion law specifically, the Master of Law in Fashion (LL.M). The programmes can be taken part-time or full-time and offer a large array of topics such as customer data protection for e-commerce, social media, regulating claims involving sustainability, fashion financing and employment issues over models.
Fashion law has been struggling to come on its own for many years and both Scafidi and Von Fursternberg have been pioneers of the field. Scafidi created the first fashion law course in 2010 and expressed her gratitude to the designer for being such a driving force behind the degrees ever seeing the light of day, calling her the “patron saint” of fashion law. At the press conference, Von Furstenberg was quick to underscore the importance of getting to grips with intellectual property law, particularly for designers. Scafidi spoke eloquently on the matter:
“Legal savvy, like business expertise, has always been an important component in building a successful fashion house or design career — it just hasn’t yet been recognised to the same degree,” she said. “The current wisdom in the fashion industry is that every Yves Saint Laurent needs a Pierre Bergé, and every Marc Jacobs a Robert Duffy, and emerging designers are encouraged to develop both creative and business skills. But would we have Tom Ford without Domenico De Sole, or at least a significant degree of legal knowledge?”
The two advanced degrees have been backed by the American Bar Association and should make a huge difference in fashion as it is common knowledge that ignorance of the law is no defense, even for creatives. For those who wonder what kind of career one can achieve with a law degree, Scafidi was quick to retort: “There are plenty of big law firms in the city that hire lawyers who have knowledge in the background of fashion. Why wouldn’t they hire lawyers who are actually trained in the field of fashion?”
Applications are open for the Master of Law in Fashion Law and the Master of Studies in Law and are proving very popular. We must mention the hair-raising tuition fees priced at approximately $53,000 for the year, with the exception of fashion professionals being offered a 25% discount. Fordham is also currently casting around for scholarships.