It’s been just under a month since I started studying fashion law. In so many words, it’s been eye-opening. I read up to 400 pages a week. I spend hours each day studying until my eyes can no longer stand to stay open.
This past month was my first time being in NYC for Fashion Week and being able to attend events. I purposely avoided them. I couldn’t do it.
In this past month, I’ve learned so much. I’ve studied the superficial parts of the fashion industry alongside the selfless parts. For some reason, I find myself obsessing over both.
On one hand, I love touching clothes. I love looking at them–learning why the designer created them and what continues to inspire them. There’s something so exciting about clothes that had a lot of thought, time + sincerity go into them. I wish I had the dedication and will to design.
On the other hand, I’m obsessed with the law side of fashion. Learning about how Hedi Slimane patented nearly everything he designed while at YSL, the rights of those making our clothes overseas and learning about why a brand’s color can’t be trademarked makes you question how people have been getting away with shady/illogical practices for so long.
There’s just something about clothes; textiles, design + art come together to form one of the ways people like to express themselves. Somehow, they all came together to form the industry that changed my life, but we have a love-hate relationship.
I hate the fact that some of our clothes are made by people in terrible working conditions.
I hate the fact that for some reason it takes over 700 gallons of water to make one t-shirt.
I hate the fact that designers now are just people who delegate the entire artistic process of creating a garment to those that study, know + breathe the art.
I hate how fashion week turned into this whole debacle of focusing on who was in the front row rather than what was coming down the runway.
I hate the fact that Pheobe Philo’s legacy was replaced by Hedi Slimane’s.. I don’t even know what to call what he’s doing. Whatever it is, I hate it.
All this to say that the fashion industry confuses me but also has the tightest grip on my life. I want to save the world (work for a nonprofit) but chastise those that break the law (working in a law firm) but maintain my creativity and never feel like I’m working (working at some creative agency or brand).
Last week, my professor had us rewrite a brand’s code of ethics. I added on to a brand’s existing code of ethics because I felt like it was vague and useless. I didn’t think much of what I said in the assignment. This is what i said:
“We’re aware that [our wrongdoing] is a hard piece of history to turn around, but we are optimistic that the fashion industry doesn’t have to stay in the position where it is today.”
This seemingly harmless sentence is apparently a nightmare for lawyers because it admits guilt. Lawyers tend to leave brand’s code of ethics vague so they don’t admit any form of guilt, which could come up in future litigation. My professor said that the last sentence of my faux ethics code is a reflection of the direction the fashion industry is taking. I don’t think it was meant to be a compliment but I surely took it as one.
In the age of “radical transparency” (more on that later) fashion is headed in the direction where brands are (somewhat) willing to admit their faults. This could include lack of safety in their supply chain now to a racist history from decades ago. I’m excited but not hopeful to see what direction the industry takes. If fashion took the logical route and simply apologized for its wrongdoing, I feel like we could move pretty far.