Douglas Hand, one of the pre-eminent fashion lawyers in the US, has thoughts and experiences in abundance about the name value of fashion brands. His front line exposure to the commercial and legal issues the fashion industry daily contends with is gilt-edged. Today, and in tiller guiding mode, Mr Hand is chairing the Luxury Law Summit session ‘What’s in a name? Eponymous Fashion Brands’. His mission is to ignite the business and creative passions of top designers Steven Alan, Ruthie Davis and Simon Spurr. Douglas Hand is a partner at Hand, Baldachin & Associates LLP. He is a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), he’s on the Advisory Board of the CFDA’s Incubator and he’s a member of the CFDA Fashion Awards Guild. He is also an adjunct professor of Fashion Law at both NYU School of Law and Cardozo School of Law and he’s on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Couture Council.
Value is the overall theme of his session slot at the Luxury Law Summit. Name recognition and brand association can certainly add enormous business value. Traditionally, an "eponym" was a mythical ancestor - or totem - that was believed to be the source of a clan's name. But Steven Alan, Ruthie Davis and Simon Spurr are very real people who have successfully created eponymous brand names. Mr Hand will, no doubt, tease out the ‘how’ and ‘why’ factors. He believes that the creation of new forms of customer engagement is the one single factor that will provide increased opportunities for the luxury sector over the next five years. Will all of his panellists agree? Only time will tell. Fashion industry consciousness is Douglas Hand’s way of being. So, in advance of the Luxury Law Summit, he shares a few of his industry perspectives.
Three key fashion industry challenges?
At the very top of Mr Hand’s ‘top three’ list is the continued shift in consumer habits. He predicts that on-going consumer habit swings will require increasingly novel forms of retail engagement. Second on his list is the issue of ‘luxury product as an experience’. This trend in how luxury products are perceived by consumers will, in his view, continue to climb up the graph. Last, but not least, Mr Hand identifies the fashion industry’s ability to produce at a requisite level of quality. What now needs to be addressed is “the slow erosion - due to age – in reputable and skilful manufacturers”.
The current industry trend seems to be that luxury business law teams are outsourcing more, to more specialised law firms and Mr Hand is adamant about the importance of bringing in house legal counsel and law firms together. It’s good to talk face to face, is his mantra. Mr Hand is a fashion law practitioner in New York and LA. His work necessitates dealing with clients and fellow lawyers from around the globe. So the Luxury Law Summit provides an invaluable opportunity to have a single venue get-together where dialogue can be launched.
Increased M&A activity in the luxury industry is the confident prediction Mr Hand makes. He points out that the “consolidation race seems to be on in the US in particular with Capri Holdings, Tapestry and others looking to acquire portfolio companies.”
The next big thing in luxury brand retailing will be “electronic sizing of the customer for made to measure that actually approximates a good tailor.”
Design rights and copyright protections?
The issue of whether there will be more - or less – design and copyright protections five years hence depends, of course, on the particular jurisdiction. In respect of the US, Mr Hand predicts “an attempt to expand copyright law further into design post Star Athletica v Varsity Brands”. In China, Mr Hand predicts “continued recognition of foreign trademark rights post Dunhill v. Danhuoli and CFDA involvement.”
The luxury fashion industry is behind the game on cyber security. Mr Hand believes this is so because “there are so many moving parts in the fashion industry for brands to stay on top of, most brands are just reactive. Putting out fires. Few brands have gotten ahead on cyber security.”
Common legal challenges?
On the issue of common legal challenges Mr Hand wryly notes that there was a lot he could say. But, in his view, the biggest challenge comes at M&A exit. The excruciating decision of a founder and designer to sell of his/her name and legacy is, in his experience, the biggest challenge of all.
Other Luxury Law Summit ‘hot’ topics?
When asked what other session at the Luxury Law Summit he was most looking forward to joining, Douglas Hand didn’t hesitate for even a nanosecond. His answer: “The Luxury of Food. Lee Sporn knows what he’s talking about!”