The new role of lawyers in the fashion industry

Italia Oggi published a supplement dedicated to the impact of new technologies on the fashion world and, in particular, on the role that lawyers have right now in protecting the interests of bands.

The acceleration of digitization has supported the exponential growth of e-commerce platforms in all merchandise categories. These have turned from virtual storefronts to online shopping malls, which offer, in addition to purchasing products, interactive experiences. This process reflected on physical stores, which have to respond to the changing expectations of shoppers, who, to prefer physical shops, must recognize an added value that can compete with the convenience offered by e-stores. Added to this is the emergence of the role of influencers, who have reworked how products are promoted and disseminated, requiring ad hoc legislation to regulate their activities.

Against this backdrop, brands must respond to the ever-increasing risk of counterfeiting and loss of control over the sales of their products, which undermines the guarantee of quality merchandise, experience and service. The problem is exponential for luxury fashion houses, which are losing the exclusivity that has always characterized and sustained them. As the market changes, challenging traditional sales channels, new outlets are being sought precisely through technology. Thus, fashion shows and Collections are pouring into the metaverse, obeying the logic of gamification of products and services and creating items designed exclusively for avatars. But not only that, those who have taken up the challenge positively have been able to reinvent their physical spaces by integrating artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and augmented reality into the offline retail experience. A new standard of experiential marketing has been set, making pop-up stores its workhorse. These give the shoppers an exciting and meaningful experience that them would not be able to find anywhere else, allowing them to connect with the brands’ values and philosophy.

It is apparent how all this multiplies the critical issues from the legal point of view much faster than any intervention that attempts to regulate regulatory gaps. This is evidenced by the appearance of new contracts and regulations, such as, among others, Vber (Vertical Block Exemption Regulation), which governs agreements between brands and distributors, the use of Nft to guarantee the authenticity of garments in the metaverse, and Erc-721R, the smart contract that requires funds related to transactions to be paid in escrow and tied up for a certain period to allow buyers a cooling-off period that guarantees the possibility of returning items. The EU is also beginning to take action against online counterfeiting; in fact, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (Dsa) are expected to take effect in 2023.

Lawyers are now required to take a multidisciplinary view, combining legal expertise with marketing needs. They must not only protect brand rights, but they have to devise strategies and solutions to support their growth in the marketplace. “There has been a rethinking of sales channels – with online shopping largely replacing traditional retail sales – and is increasingly demanded from legal experts the search for product protections on an international scale. From all these important challenges is increasing involvement in the fashion industry of the figure of the lawyer,” commented Paola Finetto, Andersen partner and expert in corporate compliance, data protection, and cyber security.